New review for the abbey tapes

Finally a new reviewer is picking up on the obvious, that abbey tapes is fantastic. And on p. 110, the two Lol Robinson albums get excellent reviews. Really happy that Phil’s and Allan’s books and music are getting some additional attention- and in the same issue as such revered musicians as Levon Helm, Ashley Hutchings, Wishbone Ash, David Crosby, Jimmy Page, and the Incredible String Band. Here’s Ian Maun’s review in Stick it in Your Ear:

I’m pleased that my flute part in “The Comb Song” is described as adding “hiraeth”, the Welsh word for longing, nostalgia, homesickness and mysticism to the song.

Check out other issues in this great little e-zine edited by Geoff Walls, UK music writer and a biographer of Ashley Hutchings.


To Kill a Mockingbird- some thoughts during The Big Read

Just ran across a little essay I wrote about TKAM some time ago:

I think that one of my favorite quotations from To Kill a Mockingbird is on p. 298 in our version, where Miss Maudie says “…we’re making a step- it’s just a baby step, but it’s a step.”
This comes after the trial of Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman in 1930’s Alabama. Atticus Finch, the attorney, defended Tom and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt to all readers that Tom is innocent; but Tom is convicted, anyway. The novel came out in 1960 and has been lauded ever since as a great novel about civil rights.

I’ve re-read this book recently for “The Big Read” and even though this has been on my list of recommended reading for all graduates, I’m having some second thoughts about the book. Something is bothering me and I may not even know what it is until I start writing about it. I want to find some criticism by the likes of Toni Morrison or even Zadie Smith. What do revisionist literary critics have to say about this novel? And what do black readers think of it?

I think the film is quite different from the book: the film concentrates mostly on the trial and the race issue. I think most people are picturing the movie when they think so fondly of TKAM. The book, for me, was more a series of vignettes of small town life, only one of which is the trial. In fact, not much is said for almost 200 pages about the Tom Robinson issue. There is more about Boo Radley and Mrs. Dubose. By p. 284 the trial is over and then commences a lot of self-congratulatory stuff by the whites about how Mr. Atticus was such a good white man for defending Tom even though he knew he could not win. I think that this book was a terrific eye-opener for whites back in the 1960’s, but today, it just strikes us as too “our massuh such a good white man…”
The black people in the novel are 2 dimensional. The main characters are Jem, Dill, Scout, and Atticus. Even Boo Radley is more multidimensional than any of the black characters.
We hear that Tom has died in prison, shot by guards as he tries to escape, even though Atticus wants to launch an appeal. And then the plot returns to the children and Boo Radley. No problem really that Tom is dead as long as the white children are saved from the supposed white racist. In fact, blacks are compared to birds in that their deaths are akin to the senseless killing of birds. I wonder how this strikes African American readers.

The book gets a little preachy with the comparison to Nazi Germany- surely something that the white South needed to hear in the 1960’s but it seems a bit overdone here. Now the trend in fiction leans toward understatement, whereas this spends too much time laying it on the line.

I must not forget that in the 1960’s we were still baby stepping, and many such baby steps have been needed to lay the foundations for the day when this nation can see beyond racial lines enough to elect our wonderful new black president. This book was definitely a baby step along the way. And our country needs to take a whole lot more baby steps even now.

I’m not questioning Nelle Harper Lee’s racial sympathies. She was at odds with her peers, did not fit in with the sorority crowd at U. of A., and as a writer she was exposing some things that needed to be exposed. She agonized over the book, rewriting it 3 times. She poked fun at the missionary ladies in the living room going on about the savages in Africa being saved by some white Christian guy. She made fun of having to become ladylike. I could identify; I used to plot how I was not going to wear girdles or slips or hose when I grew up! She really pointed up a lot of hypocrisy in the lives of Southerners and probably many North Americans. I respect her for that. She was a bridge between Harriet Beecher Stowe and Toni Morrison. She wasn’t trying to portray the African American experience, just the white experience of that era. She may have been caught in that space of time that many of us well-meaning whites in the South were caught in: the time between consciousness and action; between realizing our mistakes and doing something about them; between Martin and Malcolm. And something tells me that the book has outlived its usefulness other than for historical purposes, and that another better American novel should take its place as the lesson in black/white relations. So- I wonder what it could be…… and it isn’t The Help.
Julie Adams

Book review, Monochrome

My Amo review! Five star, of course.
I was hooked from the start by this unlikely band of paranormal investigators visiting an abandoned Scottish castle. Some grisly executions take place that night and we’re treated to visitors from parallel worlds, a female avenger, a movie star with a secret life, and some freaky killing machines. If you’ve read Allan Watson’s other books, you’re already hungry for this next novel; if you’re new to his work, well, hang on for you are in for a treat. No one can top his creative and lusty imagination laced with humor with a spatter of blood. Tying it all together are his masterful storytelling style, his innate pacing and foreshadowing, those quirky but appealing characters and his poetic insights into the dark of the soul. Don’t miss his description of that universal fear, the dark — ch. 7.

I Have Not Answered, by Adam Grydehoj

My recent review for MonsterLibrarian- a lovely book, haunting and highly recommended!:
I Have Not Answered by Adam Grydehoj
Beewolf Press, 2014
ISBN 9788799633104
Available: Hardcover, paperback and Kindle from Amazon
A young man has come to the remote Shetland Islands to search for an obscure folk song based on the Orpheus myth to complete his university studies. He befriends some local families, hoping they will sing the song and reveal its ending. He is broken-hearted from one love affair but kindles a new one here. He learns of the natural and supernatural history of the island, the selkies, the fairies (called trowies), and the tragedies of this remote existence. The narrator, you slowly begin to realize, is one of the trowies herself, with her unique viewpoints on humans and their foibles. He becomes part of the filmy fabrics that shift between realities on these battered, lonely islands. Reality, memory, dream and landscape meld into one. How much of our lives is controlled by the trowies and their whims, unbeknownst to us? The poetic prose and stark, eerie imagery is mesmerizing. Grydehoj is a Dane whose affinity for the Scottish islands is evident. This book appealed to me on so many levels, that of Scottish islands, Celtic legend, folk tales and music, supernatural beings … combs… harps… it’s uncanny. I recommend this haunting, beautifully-written tale for like-minded readers!

The Magus of Hay, by Phil Rickman

A new Rickman book- long awaited, it’s just fantastic. I ordered my copy from Amazon UK, but here’s the Amazon US link And my Amo review is below:

Merrily is called upon by friend and policeman Frannie Bliss when a local murder victim’s house proves to have a huge library of occult books; related tangents have the pair then involved in some new and old mysteries in nearby Hay-on-Wye’s bookshops and Capel-y-ffin’s mountain top church. Phil Rickman’s books can always be enjoyed on so many levels- that of crime fiction, local Welsh and English legend, supernatural and religious mystery, and just plain excellent characters. For us book-lovers, the setting of Hay with its castle and bookshops and lore is right up our alley. Old friends return, such as Gwynn Arthur Jones and Robin and Betty Thorogood. I was relieved that Robin doesn’t wind up a stereotyped stupid American; in fact he gains acceptance and respect among the other eccentric booksellers in Hay. Lol’s on tour recording a third Hazey Jane II album, we hope. Rickman leaves no taboo unturned, exposing the base and sinister sides of humanity- not unique to the Welsh border, of course. Merrily with her “peculiar tangents” achieves a sort of deliverance of her own. Rickman- one of my favorite writers ever! reviews

Over the last few years I’ve become a reviewer for, sort of by accident, but it is a lot of fun and rather addictive. My reviews so far:

Serpent’s Kiss by Melissa de la Cruz’s_Kiss_by_Melissa_de_la_Cruz

Shady Palms by Allen Dusk

December by Phil Rickman

Carapace by Allan Watson

The Bone Tree by Christopher Fulbright

The Weird: a Compendium of Dark and Strange Stories, ed. VanderMeer

Some Kind of Fairy Tale, by Graham Joyce

Night Sea Journey, by Paula Cappa

The Haunted, by Bentley Little

The Dazzling Darkness, by Paula Cappa

Winds of Salem, by Melissa de la Cruz <a

This House is Haunted, by John Boyne

Plastic, by Christopher Fowler

I Have Not Answered, by Adam Grydehoj

1234, by Allan Watson

Ravenswing, by Jonathan Glendening