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Archive for the ‘Elves’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: AILBHE REDDY-“Distrust” (2016).

I found this song from, of all things, a redbull website listing up and coming Irish bands.  It says that this song has been streamed over 3 million times.

This song opens with otherworldy “oohs” before a jagged, slapped guitar melody enters the song.  The guitar feels like it ends too abruptly.  It ‘s a very cool hook.  Especially for a song that is a total kiss-off song like this one.

Over the course of three and a half minutes more and more is added to the song–an insistent bass, drums, more backing vocals and even a violin.  But that persistent guitar runs through the whole song.  As does Ailbhe Reddy’s voice which is clean and piercing.  She speak-sings in the beginning, but when the chorus comes in, her voice is in full power. 

The song soars by the end, as does her voice.  

In the video, she stands absolutely still and strong as the room she is in falls apart around her.  

Reddy has a full album coming out next month. This song isn’t on it, but her new song “Looking Happy” is a real rocker (with a cool video). 

[READ: September 19, 2020] No Country for Old Gnomes

I really enjoyed the first book in the series–Kill the Farm Boy.  I was really looking forward to reading the continuing efforts of the heroes of Pell.

So I was a little surprised to learn that this book has almost nothing to do with the first one.  It’s set in the same place (with the same map up front) and the world remains the same, but this book follows the exploits of a completely different band of accidental warriors. 

That was a little disappointing at first (I miss Fia and Agrabella) but Dawson & Hearne have created a brand new band of travelers who are just as interesting and compelling as the first bunch. All of the characters from the first book make cameos, but they are brief.  The only characters from the first book that have any regular work are King Gustave and Grinda the Sand Witch.

But this book is exciting and funny and in the same vein as the first while being very different as well.  It is full of puns and jokes and twists on fantasy novels all while fleshing out the world that was created in book one (and making great use of the map that’s on the first page).

The book opens with three witches (not Grinda) and a cauldron.  I love a spoof of this scene and this one is especially good.  Two of the witches are casting a spell to help the Bruding Boars win their jousting competition.  But they needed a third so they put an ad on Ye Olde Meet-Up Bulletin Boarde. This third with (who looked quite different from her picture) had a very different spell in mind.

The third witch disappeared after casting a spell full of blood and seeming to be against gnomes.  But, really, who cared about gnomes.

Neither noticed the surfeit of portent in the air, wafting from the coppery-smelling cave, probably because the second witch smelled so strongly of cat urine.
But the portent was there nonetheless.

The book shifts to the Numminen family of gnomes.  Gnomes are generally smöl (ha!) and cheerful. The two sons Onni and Offi are fighting about Offi’s lack of gnomeric behavior.  Offi likes wearing cardigans that are black and covered in bats (gnome cardigans should be bright and cheerful).  So, yes, Offi is a goth gnome.  Whereas Onni is a perfect gnome who wins award for his gnomeric behavior. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: COURTNEY MARIE ANDREWS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #68 (August 20, 2020).

Courtney Marie Andrews annoys me because she is not Courtney Barnett.  So whenever a DJ says Courtney, I hope it’s Barnett.  Sometimes it is and sometimes it’s this country singer.

Courtney Marie Andrews seems like a nice enough person but her music is on the wrong side of country for me.

She opens this set with “Burlap String.”  Paul Defiglia plays upright bass and Mat Davidson (aka Twain) adds pedal steel.  In this song

Andrews sings about the fear of love. “I’ve grown cautious, I’ve grown up / I’m a skeptic of love / Don’t wanna lose what I might find.” Yet, “Burlap String” is also a song about how love’s memory lingers, and how the mind rekindles its beauty.

Defiglia leaves after the song.

The blurb says that Andrews is only 29 and she’s been playing for ten years.  She has a new album and WXPN has been playing “It Must Be Someone Else’s Fault” a bunch.  It’s a bouncy song that seems to be full of sadness.

For “If I Told,” which she calls a modern day love song, Davidson switches to the Wurlizer.  Andrews sings a bit of yodel in the chorus.  It’s a catchy moment.

The set ends with Courtney alone at the Wurlitzer, singing “Ships in the Night” the final song on her seventh album, Old Flowers.  It is about lost love and hoping for closure with fondness.

Courtney Marie’s voice is powerful but it’s not my thing.

[READ: August 1, 2020] Kill the Farm Boy

I saw a review for the second book in this series (which has just come out) and it sounded pretty great.  So I looked up the first one only to find out that Dawson and Hearne are both authors with other series to their names.  Dawson has written The Shadow Series (as Lila Bowen), The Hit Series and The Blud Series.  Meanwhile, Hearne has written The Iron Druid Series and Oberon’s Meaty Mysteries.  They’ve also written single volumes of things too.  So they are well known in the fantasy realm.

The acknowledgments say that they met up in the Dallas Fort Worth airport at the barbecue joint (I have eaten there and it was tremendous).  They waited for their flight and discussed killing the farm boy, or in other words, making fun of white male power fantasies that usually involve a kid in a rural area rising to power in the empire after he loses his parents.  They found that skewering topics was fun and decided to write the book together.

So in the land of Pell we meet a farm boy named Worstley.  He cleaned up the goats.  And one goat, Gus, was especially ornery.  One night while Worstley was mucking out the area, a fairy entered the room.  She was haggard and dressed crazily with one sock on and her pants falling off. But the fairly quickly corrected any thoughts about her being a proper fairy by saying she was a pixie and her name was Staph.  She was there to anoint the chosen One.

To prove her magic she pointed at Gus and magicked him into talking.  The first thing Gus said was that his name was Gustave and he called Worstley “Pooboy.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MARGO PRICE & JEREMY IVEY-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #2 (March 26, 2020).

Since the quarantine began, many many many musicians have been playing shows at home.  There are so many online home recordings that it is literally impossible to keep up with them.  I have watched a few, but not many.  I’m not sure how many of the online shows are going to be available for future watching, but at least these are saved for posterity.

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music’s Tiny Desk (Home) Concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It’s the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.

I respect Margo Price’s lyrics and attitude. But her music is just too country for my tastes.  I don’t know anything about her husband Jeremy Ivey (turns out he released his first album this year at age 41).

In this concert, Margo’s accent is subdued and her songs sound great.  Plus, she says what we are all thinking between the first and second song.

Margo Price and her husband, Jeremy Ivey, performed a Tiny Desk (Home) Concert from their Nashville attic. Behind them are two handmade signs inspired by John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Bed-In For Peace that simply reads “Stay Home” and “Save Lives.”

They play three songs

They played “Stone Me,” a song they co-wrote and included on Margo’s upcoming album, That’s How Rumors Get Started.

Maybe it is best is Margo stays in the country world, because her lyrics really stand out against the status quo:

Love me, hate me
Desecrate me
Call me a bitch
Then call me baby
You don’t know me
You don’t own me
Yeah that’s no way
To stone me

Plus it’s really catchy.

After the song Ivey jokes that you can hold your applause until the end.  But then Margo gets serious saying the last time they did Tiny Desk trump had just gotten elected and didn’t think things gcould ever get worse…here we are.

The second song, “Just Like Love” is from an EP.  It’s a minor key song, less catchy but more affecting with Ivey’s excellent backing vocals and guitar solos.

Margo and Jeremy dedicated this concert to all those that are struggling right now and thank “all the people still out there working, the doctors, all the sanitation people, everybody out there just doing what they have to do to so we can survive, all the people working in grocery stores. And to everyone who has lost their job, we feel you.”  In addition to the rapidly spreading virus, Nashville was recently ravaged by tornadoes.

The video cuts to black and Margo returns saying Take 25, while carrying a hand drum.

They ended the set with a premiere, a song called “Someone Else’s Problem,” that they wrote together on an airplane while Margo was pregnant. It’s a song dealing with the guilt many of us have, being part of a problem instead of part of a solution.

This is another minor key song and it’s quite long (about 7 minutes).  It’s almost like a Bob Dylan story song (including a harmonica solo).

She ends the set by looking at the camera and asking, Where’s the ventilators” if only the stereotypical country fan would listen to her and maybe change their minds about the impeached president.

[READ: March 30, 2020] The Adventure Zone 2

I loved this book.  It is a graphic novel realization of a Dungeons & Dragons campaign.  It is based on a podcast called The Adventure Zone.  The podcast is fun and is a real scenario of friends (in this case brothers) playing D&D.  The podcast is pretty funny if a little unedited.

Book Two picks up more or less where the last book left off.  Our heroes Taako the elf mage, Merle the dwarf cleric and Magnus the fighter meet with the leaders of the Bureau of Balance, a volunteer organization dedicate to finding and eliminating weapons of magical destruction.

They are given new gear, they level up, they shop at Magic Costco.  Then they are to board the Rockport Express train and retrieve the Oculus, a magical object.  The person who had it, Leeman Kessler, was killed for it.

The train is pretty cool with a crypt safe that can only be opened if the engineer’s hands are on it for an hour.

There a bunch of hilarious NPCs in the game including the engineer, Hudson, and the guy who is there to help them, Jenkins.  Jenkins brings their food and shows them the magic portal room (it’s not-only-a sex thing).  The fun that the characters have at Jenkins’ expense it totally worth the reading of the book.

Also on board is a young boy (I’m ten, not eight) Angus McDonald the self-proclaimed world’s greatest detective who offers to help him (and sound snotty doing it).   Angus knows about Leeman Kessler’s death and he is out to find “The Rockport Slayer.”  The three adventurers agree to help him.  As they go snooping around they discover another dead body.  His hands and head were cut off.

Coincidentally also on board is the professional wrestler, Jess the Beheader (Magnus loves her and has both her action figures, the regular one and the rare one).  But Merle snarks: “Don’t you know wrestling is made up fantasy bullshit?”

The rest of the book becomes kind of a mystery story–finding the Rockport Slayer and eventually getting the magical oculus out of the cryptsafe. There’s magical spells, serious hit point damage, a large  crab, preposterous story lines and a nice plot twist.

The fun part at the end comes when our heroes hand over the oculus (come on that’s not a spoiler) but the head of the BOB reveals that there are a total of seven magical items that they must retrieve and thanks to our heroes, they now have two.

So you’re telling us that you and your big organization and secret moon base and flying snow globes have been doing this for however long and your score is zero?!

Two?

No that’s our score…BOB Incorporated has a big old goose egg.

As the book ends a mysterious hooded figure who has been lurking throughout the book crosses out the oculus on a list.  The phoenix fire gauntlet is already crossed out.  That leaves Five to go.

I really enjoyed this story even if it was more of a mystery than a good old D&D story.  Although honestly I haven’t looked at D&D since the 70s so maybe it’s different now.

Although, more specifically there is no way this is how a D&D story could work.  The repartee and the battles are too clean cut and plotted.  Now I realize that the book borrows liberally from various things to create the story line.  So maybe they have taken the podcast and taken the highlights and best quips and made this story from it  I mean, it works as story but it doesn’t work at all as a campaign.  Which is fine, since this is a story not a campaign.

I’m just curious how the actual campaign worked.

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SOUNDTRACK: SiR-Tiny Desk Concert #941 (February 3, 2020).

I had never heard of SiR, the R&B singer from Inglewood, CA.  That’s not surprising since I don’t listen to R&B.

But as I often say I’m always surprised to read that someone is very successful and yet I have never heard of them.

Since signing to hip-hop juggernaut Top Dawg Entertainment in 2017, Sir Darryl Farris has been the most consistent, most reliable player on the roster outside of its original four.  His output has further solidified the label’s stake in spaces outside of just rap music.

He sings four songs, all ballads.  His voice is somewhere between speaking and singing with an interesting raspy quality.

The songs come from his latest LP, Chasing Summer.

Themes of regret loom throughout the album and he’s never shied away from writing about personal flaws. His depiction of misdirected desires and heartbreak on “John Redcorn” and “The Recipe” reveal a cruel honesty that couples grapple with at times.

“The Recipe” has some really nice backing vocals from Davion Farris, Jacquelyn Farris and Zyah Belle.

“New Sky” has a pretty piano melody from Ledaris “L.J.” Jones with some nice fat bass from Samuel Davis.   I quite like like the vocals on the chorus.

When he introduces the band he reveals that Davion Farris is his older brother and Jacquelyn Farris is his mom.

The set was also a family affair with his mother and older brother offering support as two of the three background vocalists. We get a glimpse of his upbringing in the gospel choir once those harmonies open up.

The set proves to be unexpectedly emotional

About halfway through the performance, SiR revealed that he’d lost his infant godson a few days prior and dedicated the performance to him. “We’re doing this for him. I didn’t want to come… It took a lot for me to be here today …but we’re gonna get through this.”

He plays the spare “Wires in the Way.”  It’s just his voice with some quiet jazzy guitar from Terrall Whitehead.  Midway through some lovely jazzy piano is added.  Throughout, you can see how emotional SiR is while singing the song and then he needs a moment at the end before they start the last song.

Woah.

He is able to bring the happiness back for the last song.  He says “It’s my favorite song off the album.  Hope you like this last one.”

“John Redcorn” feels like a culmination of the other songs, with everyone playing or singing to make this song very full.  I especially like the way Roger “Jooseondrums” Benford makes the cymbals sound like they are filling up the room.

Many Tiny Desk Concerts are emotional and you;d have to be stone cold not to be moved by this one.

[READ: February 20, 2020] Princeless: Raven Book 3

Book Two ended with a cliffhanger–would Raven be able to save Ximena?  She needs to take Ximena for medical care, but she knows that she can’t go anywhere on the island, since her brothers rule everything there.

Katie looks at the maps that Ximena has been making and sees that there’s an island not too far off.  It’s a spa for people who are really injured.  They set sail immediately and Katie is put in charge while Raven stays with Ximena.  Raven reveals that she is in love with Ximena (which most of the crew guessed anyway).

Raven is told that Ximena needs to hear her voice if she is to recover and so Raven tells the story of how her mother and father met.  It’s a pretty wonderful story and is beautifully drawn by Sorah Suhng.

All this time, Sunshine has been listening at the door.  It turns out she’s quite jealous of Ximena because she has a major thing for Raven.  So when Raven asks Sunshine to tell Ximena a story, Sunshine is really torn.  But she knows how important it is so she tells the story of how her parents met–that a human and an elf could conceive.  It’s a pretty great story drawn in a very different style by Jason Strutz. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TWIN PEAKS-“Spiders (Kidsmoke)” (from WILCOvered, UNCUT Magazine November 2019).

The November 2019 issue of UNCUT magazine had a cover story about Wilco.  It included a 17 track CD of bands covering Wilco (called WILcovered or WILCOvered).  I really enjoyed this collection and knew most of the artists on it already, so I’m going through the songs one at a time.

This was the last song on this compilation and it’s my favorite.

There’s a lot of Wilco songs that I like and “Spiders (Kidsmoke)” is way at the top.  The song is really long and doesn’t change a lot but the changes are fantastic.  One of the great things about the song is Nels Cline’s insane guitar work throughout–noisy and seemingly uncontrolled, but somehow fitting in perfectly with the 1-2-3- bass line.

This version by Twin Peaks is as good, if not slightly better than the original.  I say that because the band sounds a little fuller during the verses which I like (although it does make the change to the noisier section less dramatic).  And Nels Cline;s guitar work is more interesting than the Twin Peaks version–although they do some cool things too.

I think Twin Peaks has a bit more of the heavy alternative sound the I like.  The vocals are great, the guitars are great.  I’ve now listened to both versions back to back and I like them both!

This cover actually made me investigate Twin Peaks more and I was bummed to find out that they had just played a show in our area after I had listened to this song.

Next time!

[READ: February 20, 2020] Princeless: Volume 5

This book opens with Adrienne and Bedelia enjoying a cleansing bath in a lake (I assume).  While they are getting clean, Adrienne mourns the state of her hair.  How often she has tried to straighten and control the knotty curls on her head.  And after some serious thought, she has Bedelia shave it all off.  I love that when she pops out of the water newly shorn, she looks gorgeous–well done Emily Martin.  On a less great note, there’s a scene in the water where Bedelia, who is a strong and rugged half-dwarf lets not forget, is drawn with a waist that would be about 10 inches across in real life–bad form Emily Martin.

In book two, Devin and Kira are trotting along (with the tough Kira getting nauseous on the back of a horse).  When suddenly Kira smells… an elf.  And it is her duty to kill it.  Kira dives on the elf’s travelling companion, who is Prince Wilcome.  The elf, named Tempest, quickly disarms Devin and takes his sword.  They are at an impasse.

Next we jump to the dwarf kingdom.  There are two male guards out front discussing music and almost come to blows during their argument, calling each other girlie and arguing which one is the real man.  But when another dwarf comes along shouting Dragon, we find out that the dwarf dragon slayers are all women.  They prep themselves and get ready to make dragon stew.  After a kiss between Benna and Gretta they fling the dwarfs through the air from a catapult. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE HANDSOME FAMILY-“Capitol City” (from WILCOvered, UNCUT Magazine November 2019).

The November 2019 issue of UNCUT magazine had a cover story about Wilco.  It included a 17 track CD of bands covering Wilco (called WILcovered or WILCOvered).  I really enjoyed this collection and knew most of the artists on it already, so I’m going through the songs one at a time.

I’ve know of The Handsome Family for a long time, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard them before.  “Capitol City” is also a bit of a mystery.  It appeared on a Wilco bonus disc (for the deluxe edition of The Whole Love).  I assumed it had something to do with The Simpsons, but I guess it doesn’t.

This is a kind of honky-tonk version with banjo and “gadgets” as part of the lineup.   It’s fun with lots of weird sound effects swirling around this otherwise conventional song.

I wish you were here. Better yet, I wish I was there with you.

[READ: February 20, 2020] Princeless: Volume 4

Sir Gahiji the Hunter has learned that Adrienne is actually not dead and is in fact the knight they are all after.  He shares this information with the Black Knight. They instantly fight and the Black Knight knocks out Gahiji (or Cat Hat, since he wears a wolves’ head on his head).

Adrienne and Bedelia are headed for Grimmorium Swamp.  Bedelia tells of some horrible things that live there: flesh eating goblins, swamp creatures, electric fish, squirrels… real live squirrels! (The squirrel revelation is pretty great).

Back at the castle, the King grabs Devin and brings him along to the forest where the encounter the remains of the Queen’s carriage.   The King says he thinks the Black Knight is responsible.  The King then introduces Devin to the wolves (Kira scares the daylights out of him).

Amazingly Devin and Kira soon bond well enough.  The leader of the wolves says that he wishes his daughter were inquisitive like Devin. The King says he’d rather have Kira in battle–he’s seen rabbits with more courage than his son.  In the background we see Kira and Devin climbing all over his mother’s empty chest.  When he comes out he stands tall and says “I’m going on a quest to save my mother!” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICSNorthlands Coliseum Edmonton AB (November 12 1996).

Rheostatics opened for The Tragically Hip in Fall 1996.  Some of the shows were online already, but in 2018, Rheostatics Live added about ten more shows.

This is the 4th night of the 24 date Canadian Tour opening for The Tragically Hip on their Trouble At The Henhouse Tour.

For this show their opening music is the Wizard of Oz’s Munchkins singing “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead.”  Martin follows with some lovely noodling that segues into a lovely “Song of Flight.”  The band sounds a little bit sloppy, surprisingly.

The song segues into “California Dreamline” and the crowd is appropriately responsive.  “All the Same Eyes” follows, sung by Tim in what seems like a casual way.

“Fat” sounds especially great.  Martin starts the song asking “What are you saying, who are you talking to?”  I wonder if it was directed at someone.  The band sound great and everyone seems really into the “robot/zombie” part.

As the song ends, Dave notes, “There’s a bit of banging going on over there but it was in time to the next song.  If you could do that four times….  Not whooing, banging.  Rumor has it that there’s a hockey team that plays out of this rink.  We’re from Toronto and in the 1980s the Leafs sucked and the Oilers were winning cup after cup and we see the banners and it motivates us.  Tim: and it motivates us to move to Edmonton–for the summer only, of course.

There’s more Tim as he says that “Bad Time to Be Poor,” was a true story.  Then its more Tim with “Claire.”  Martin does some great Neil Young sounding solos in the introduction.  The song sounds great with some cool ripping solos from Martin.

“Dope Fiends and Booze Hounds” always sounds great.  This one has a pretty intro and a small stumble before they rock out.  There’s great backing vocals here.  Martin does a weird ending for the “dark side of the moon” part–it’s more growling and he doesn’t quite hit the awesome high note at the end.

“Feed Yourself” is dedicated to The Tragically Hip.”  Tim: “You can all go get a coffee of something.”  The opening is utterly chaotic in a not so great way.  But they settle down and really rip through the song.  Tim seems to be mucking about near the end.  Dave does go dark and creepy with the end part but in a much less dramatic way than he would if they were the main band.  They absolutely destroy at the end and the crowd is very responsive.  What a fantastic opening set.

[READ: March 4, 2019] The Adventure Zone 1

I loved this book.  It is a graphic novel realization of a Dungeons & Dragons campaign.  It is based on a podcast called The Adventure Zone.  The podcast is fun and is a real scenario of friends (in this case brothers) playing a new game of D&D (with new characters).  The podcast is pretty funny if  a little unedited.

The graphic novel is certainly edited.  It’s fun to have a visual accompaniment and the illustrations by Carey Pietsch are terrific with a wonderful comic-fantasy feel. .  If you wanted to hear the comparison from podcast to book, Page 18 syncs up to minute 100:00 in chapter 1 podcast.

But I have one MAJOR complaint.  Why is there so much cursing?  I get that this is a real adventure and that is literally the way people talk when the play the game.  But it is really off putting in this book.  Especially in the beginning when we don’t know these characters well.  Reading them cursing is not nearly as enjoyable as hearing them cursing in the podcast.

PLUS, this book, aside from the voluminous amount of cursing, would be suitable for just about all ages.  The adventure is PG (with maybe a couple of gentle tweaks) and the violence is comedic.  But the point is that this book would be such a great introduction to Dungeons and Dragons to any age and it’s a shame that they blew it.  (more…)

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(Field Recordings, January 12, 2012). 

This is a lengthy Field Recording [Mantra: Post-Minimalist Percussion In Aisle 12].  It has some interruptions by one of the guys.  Then he talks about how they have set up the board–suspending it on pegs.

There’s something primeval about guys banging on wood. But the New York percussion group Mantra takes such primitive pounding to a surprisingly refined level. For composer Michael Gordon’s mesmerizing new work — Timber, written for six two-by-fours — Mantra set up a public performance of the piece in the lumber department of a big-box hardware store in Alexandria, Va. Who knew 60 inches of processed pine could sound so good?

It’s unclear how long the piece is since there are constant interruptions.   Although it does run for about 2 and a half minutes uninterrupted.

For the most part the six players play a constant rhythm that creates overtones and resonances.  It’s a little monotonous until one of the starts to play a slightly different rhythm.  And by the end, there’s a couple of different rhythms that make it sound even better.

It’s a neat piece and would be fun to walk unto a hardware store and see that.

[READ: January 22, 2018] “Elf-Cio”

This is from a children’s book called Elves for Dignity.  It was published by a worker’s cooperative in Buenos Aires–one of 170 worker-run businesses in Argentina. The piece was translated by Burke Butler.

Once upon a time there was a greedy and merciless King.  One morning he awoke with the idea of converting one of his palaces into a hotel.  He hired a legion of elves whom he considered selfless and docile. They all abandoned their markets and farms to serve the King.

They worked night and day to ensure the splendor of the hotel. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: April 15, 2016] Stink: the World’s Worst Super-Stinky Sneakers & the Great Guinea Pig Express

Tabitha was listening to this book in her room and I said, hey, that’s Bart Simpson.  And indeed, the book was being read by Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart (as well as Nelson, Ralph, and dozens of other minor characters).  The next day we went on a car ride and she asked to listen to the stories.  So we did.  I heard the end of the Guinea Pig story and then all of the sneaker story.  Well, I couldn’t have a half finished story in my head so I had to listen to the beginning of the guinea pig story too, and call it all finished.

I knew of Stink from the Judy Moody books.  Stink is Judy’s younger brother (and she’s pretty awful in these books.  I don’t recall if she was awful in her own books).  But that could just be because this is about Stink and not her.  We learn how Stink got his name: Judy started singing a song about him in which stink was the chorus.  And it just stuck.

Stink goes by Stink in school and elsewhere.  And apparently he has a super duper sniffer (this may just be a coincidence and not a side effect of being called Stink).  (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: December 2016] A Boy Called Christmas

boyS. brought his audiobook home for us and we started it the night we went to pick out our Christmas tree.

This is a delightful story of Nikolas, an 11-year-old boy living in Finland in the olden days.  His parents called him Christmas, because he was born on Christmas day.

Nikolas’ life has been one of terrible hardship.  His mother was killed when she was attacked by a bear (a bear that lingers around their house to this day).  His father, Joel, is a woodcutter.  He cuts enough wood for them to survive, but otherwise things are bleak.  They eat mushroom soup for every meal and, in Nikolas’ whole life, he has received just two toys: a sled and a doll with a turnip head.

The only friend that Nikolas has is a mouse named Mika.  Now, this may be a fairy-tale kind of story but even Nikolas can’t understand Mika’s squeaks (although we can).  Mika is constantly on a quest for cheese–even though he has never tasted it.

Joel has noticed a man, a hunter, in their vicinity.  He turns out to be an excellent bowman with silver arrows.  In fact, once, when the bear that killed Nikolas’ mother is nearby, an arrow flies through the air and scares off the bear, saving Nikolas’ life.  The hunter finally comes to their house with a proposition for Joel.

The hunter is on a quest on behalf of the king.  They are setting off to prove that Elfhelm, the mythical land of elves, really does exist.  If they can bring proof to the king, they will be incredibly rich men. Joel and Nikolas believe very strongly in magic and in Elfhellm, and after much hemming and hawing, Joel decides to go on the quest.

This leaves Nikolas alone (with Mika).  So Joel calls his sister Aunt Carlotta to watch over Nikolas while he is gone.

There’s a lot of villains in the story, but Aunt Carlotta might be the worst of them.  She is mean from the start.  She takes all of the cushions for herself and forces Nikolas to sleep outside.  He is put to work immediately–gathering food and firewood–and cooking for her.  And finally she reveals that the only reason she came is because if his father does return–which she doubts–he will give her a lot of money.  As the section with Aunt Carlotta continues, she commits the gravest sin imaginable.  And that’s when the last straw is broken and Nikolas leaves. (more…)

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