RECENT REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS

  • Blissfully Dead
    Melita Harvey
    5.0 out of 5 stars" By Wendy
    Every now and again you read a book that will change how you look at life - Blissfully Dead is one such book. I found so many"ah ha!" moments that I had to read three times and highlight key messages just to make sure I had sucked every drop dry! I can't wait to read it again....... ~ Wendy, Amazon.com

  • Blissfully Dead
    Melita Harvey
    5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read!!!!!!

    This was one of the most inspiring and insightful books about the afterlife I have read. Melita writes in a flowing and easy to read style which keeps the reader turning the pages to find out more information and understanding revealed with each chapter. Melita's amazing gift of channelling spirit from the other side presents a new and enlightening perspective on what it is like to be blissfully dead and of the impact our actions in this life may have on our soul's growth.
    ~ Amazon Customer, Amazon.com

  • Firebird Chronicles, The
    Daniel Ingram-Brown
    This fantasy adventure is aimed at middle grade readers to young teens, but I would say that adults would get as much enjoyment from the story too. The writing is rich with atmosphere and the quirky characters come alive with the wealth of descriptions and unusual names given to the inhabitants of the World of Mortales.

    It might not be obvious to younger readers but some of the character names and places derive from the world of writing such as Nib and the Quill sisters, and there’s Blotting’s Academy, Fullspot Island, and Bookend Isles to name but a few.

    I found The Nemesis Charm had a darker feel compared with the first book, The Rise of the Shadow Stealers, where the two apprentices are finding their feet in their new world at school. The second book finds the stacks raised with physical dangers close at hand as well as psychological and spiritual mind games. Dramatic elements are balanced with humour by way of Grizelda – I love an old hag – one of my favourite characters. She brought both light and shade to the story.

    Daniel Ingram-Brown has a way of setting the scene so that the reader becomes immersed in the world of the characters, and if you get a little lost there’s a map in the front of the book. I was gripped by the writing and the quest of Fletcher and Scoop. Would they make it to the Un-crossable Boundary? Would they cross the Threshold? You’ll have to read the book to find out. Needless to say, when I got to the last page I was left bereft as I wanted to read on, but I guess I’ll have to wait for the next book.

    Fans of the Narnia books or Inkheart will love this read. I would rate this book 9/10. ~ The State of the Arts, www.thestateofthearts.co.uk

  • Nursing by Heart
    Julie Skinner
    'Julie Skinner's book, Nursing by Heart, could not have come to me at a better time as I was just finishing my degree in nursing and as my student days grew to a close and my hospital training days grew longer I found I was giving more and more of myself in the care of others and finding myself not just physically but emotionally drained at the end of each day. As a nurse, it is in our nature to put others care before our own and as a student nurse we are never taught that caring for ourselves is essential if we want be the best nurses we can. I am very thankful that Julie has created a practical and heartfelt guide to help others understand this and I know that I will continue to refer to her book over the years to remind myself of the importance of self-care as I progress through my nursing journey.'

    ~ Rosie Waldron, email

  • Drone and Apocalypse
    Joanna Demers
    Joanna Demers is an academic but Drone and Apocalypse is not quite your typical academic book. Though Demers frames the work as a furthering of her professional interest in experimental electronic music, it’s also clearly a personal record of listening to and being moved by that same music. The book is mostly made up of a series of short essays about particular musicians — William Basinski, Thomas Koner, Eliane Radigue and, most of all, Celer — operating in the ambient/drone area of electronic music, analyzed with the help of ancient Greek texts and examples of classic literature. The essays are essentially non-fictional but they come presented within a fictional context: an exhibition in the year 2213 featuring the writing and speculative artworks of an early 21st century artist-of-sorts, Cynthia Wey. Wey’s ‘speculative artworks’ are propositions for work never realized — photo collages, video installations, etc — that extend or express the ideas contained within the essays.

    The book opens with Demers’ preface, which explains her reasoning behind this structure and her interest in drone music, which is followed by an introductory essay by the curators of the exhibition, doubling up on Demers’ notes as a fictionalized, art-world version of the same set of justifications and explanations. Together they set out the questions at the heart of the book: What are the philosophical foundations of drone music? What do we mean when we say ‘the end of the world’? How do we speak about something that has no meaning?

    Cynthia Way is the figure Demers uses to think her way through these questions. Wey’s biography marks her as someone both inside and outside the traditional academy. As an MFA graduate working as an administrative assistant in the music department at UC San Diego, where “her job consisted of preparing payroll for faculty, staff and graduate students,” Wey has contact with and knowledge of the university structure. The work presented here — impassioned personal essays written at home, mostly at night — eludes these structures entirely.

    Wey is able to access the traditions, knowledge, and practices of the university without having to write into those same traditions, without being bound by their limited affordances. Through Wey, Demers gives herself the space to advance an academic pursuit in a more personal, more ambiguous way. The music Demers is writing about is, in her own words, “slippery, resistant to deciphering, and perhaps eternally unknowable,” but the somewhat loose nature of a private journal allows her to attach words to these ineffable sounds, without having to make those words stick fast. She can decorate, she can cut quickly between ideas and references, she can advance and retreat. In this form, the blissful ignorance of wallowing in the meaninglessness of sustained tones needn’t be sacrificed for the sake of concrete knowledge. Wey’s character allows the writing to retain the kind of negative capability that a more straightforward academic structure would likely disallow. Like with the music itself, which eschews narrative and conclusion, it’s being there that counts.

    Drone music is a niche subject. Those who dismiss it likely find it boring or uselessly pretty, and much of it is indeed just a beautiful, glistening waste of time. Wey’s essays hit on the substance of the form though, which is its relationship to time and how, at their strongest, such sounds can open a space where both the crushing melancholia of memory and the anxious projections of hope for the future can be indulged. Extended, repetitious, near-unchanging drone pieces seem to freeze the listener in time, to slow the world around them and allow a certain kind of internal observation to take place, an existential or meditative self-examination.

    At its deepest, and this is the pitch at which Wey most commonly operates, such an opportunity can result in thoughts of non-existence, of a time beyond one’s own life, or the life of one’s culture and society. As Deleuze wrote of Yasujiro Ozu’s lingering ‘still life’ shots, “Time is the full, that is, the unalterable form filled by change.” The static shot within a constantly moving medium serves as a reminder of time itself, a cosmological, capital-T Time, within which everything else changes and passes. As a genre that puts the static in ecstatic, drone music’s “moments of joy that halt time altogether” cannot but reassert Time, throw its passing into relief, and so make the end of one’s own time seem inevitable. These moments, “when one’s toes clench the precipice shortly before jumping,” are a through-line to an apocalyptic future. They “speak of the end of time, the end of the world, and all the unresolvable dilemmas that accompany such ends.”

    Wey repeatedly comes back to one such dilemma: What does it mean to feel moments of happiness, joy even, in the face of a sure and imminent apocalypse? She contrasts Celer’s music and Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics in search of an answer. In the latter, happiness is something to push towards over an entire lifetime, an endeavor which can only be judged successful at the end of that life. In Celer’s music, and Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, Wey pin-points a different type of happiness in which a lifetime’s worth of the emotion can be felt within a single moment, even if such a moment comes at a great cost — not least the knowledge, after the moment has passed, of the continual absence of such great joy, such peace. In Celer’s Salvaged Violets, Wey imagines such a moment frozen and distended, looping forever as “an edifice of eternal happiness, eternal for however long it lasts,” implying always an afterward, a hollow encore.

    However long it lasts is another of Wey’s pressing concerns. She is a character who foresees an imminent end to human life on earth. One of the aspects of drone music which she finds most attractive is its ability to look at the end of the world without dramatizing it, without making the apocalyptic event a transcendent event. Drone is often an “anatomical art,” cataloging its ideas and sounds rather than expressing them through narrative or sullying them with a message or an imperative. This form of documentation — the manifest, the list — which is as evident in Wey’s own essays as in the music she writes about, is for her the only understandable reaction to the “bleakest knowledge” that all will pass, and pass soon. Such artworks are the “only fitting response after the heart has burned and bled and then stopped.” In listing what exists despite their assured destruction, they “prove that we were ever here.” That they cannot list everything and must remain incomplete is the source of their melancholy.

    It is in the work of William Basinski and Eliane Radigue that Wey most effectively elucidates these ideas. Wey uses Radigue’s music to circle around Blaise Pascal’s question: “With no more than eight days to live, who would not find that the best bet is to believe . . . ?” For Wey, Radigue shows that belief — in God, in a savior, in an afterlife — at such a juncture is cynical. It’s empty, selfish logic — a monstrous form of reason. Given the end of the world, Wey declares it best to face the end without change, without desire either for the end or for things to be different. After the three beautiful, meaningless, monumental hours of Radigue’s Adnos I-III, the sound simply stops. It doesn’t close, it doesn’t climax; it stops. First it was, now it isn’t. In the simple switch from on to off, there is no sentimentality, no emotional grease or stylistic play-acting. No teleology, nothing to be learned. “There is no explanation for it, no narrative or program or belief in some event that will justify what we hear; it is beautiful and incomprehensible because of its sounds alone.”

    Wey, and Demers too, must always return to this incomprehensible center, the void at the heart of the music and of the book. If the essays and artworks in the book are speculative, then so is the book itself. Drone and Apocalpyse speculates on what form knowledge might take in the face of the unknowable. What does knowledge look and feel like when it is uncertain, or beyond proof? The obvious answer is that it looks like faith, and the book is in part a delineation of a secular, nihilistic faith, a faith that can rely only on worldly beauty for its unifying force. Wey’s belief in beauty, her faith in the music which gives her a center with which to face an inevitable void, is matched by Demers belief in her structure; that this literary form might be a way of following and accompanying the meaningless and the inexpressible. Not unpacking or deconstructing it, not building it up to an ideology of its own, but simply being with it until a certain point, beyond which there is no being at all. ~ Ian Maleney, Full Stop

  • Drone and Apocalypse
    Joanna Demers
    Demers’ Drone and Apocalypse is a sprawling and inventive meditation on the nature of apocalypse in contemporary art and music. It takes the form of an ‘exhibit catalogue’ pertaining to an exhibition staged in 2213 on the essays and artistic ideas of Cynthia Wey. The book variously focuses on drone music, film, philosophy, cynicism, list making and the apocalypse, which Wey, Demers’ invention and interlocutor, believed was imminent and foreshadowed in contemporary culture. While signs of the apocalypse have been seen throughout history, Demers identifies a new and emerging trend in contemporary culture.

    The book begins with a prologue by Demers. It discusses drone music, clearly of both academic and emotional significance to the author, before setting out the author’s experimental approach for the book itself. I say clearly as despite a fairly wide experience of contemporary music, including electronic and dirge, drone music has always left me cold. Demers seems to enjoy the deliberately obtuse and challenging nature of this music, finding depths and complexities that have eluded me. Through the character of Cynthia Wey and an exhibition staged two hundred years from now, Demers creates distance from herself and her subject. This artifice is effective—Demers writes with more clarity and verve as Wey than she does in her own, more academic, voice.

    The main part of the book is the exhibit catalogue. It includes a curator’s introduction which offers a pen portrait of Wey: a West Coast millennial, failed artist, diarist and administrator, convinced that in the early 2000s, the apocalypse was inevitable and fast approaching. For the curator of this fictional exhibition, Wey is a rediscovered visionary, valued for her insight into early 21st century culture. Her planned artworks have been recreated, both in the exhibition and here, through description, for the reader. These are possibly the weakest element of an otherwise interesting book. Even in exegesis, the works seem trite.

    “Photojournalism of the Fall” contains the only visual representation of Wey’s ideas: photocollages by Sean Griffin. These fairly derivative images add little to the text. To complicate matters, Griffin is a composer and artist currently working in California. Introducing a contemporary figure to recreate Wey’s works for the purposes of a future exhibition is both rather confusing and has the effect of breaking the book’s fourth wall briefly. The imagery combines various found elements, following the well-trodden path of Pop and more recent collage art. There is a noticeable difference between Demers writing on music and visual art: a different book where Wey was recast as a failed contemporary composer may have allowed for more original works to be imagined, described and used.

    Wey and the book are deeply concerned with the concept of apocalypse. Drone music, as created by Boards of Canada, Celer and others, is seen as one sign of this apocalyptic tendency. This music is comprised of slow building, wordless, repetitive, even discordant planes of sound. It defies conventional music, in the same way that apocalyptic art, with its deliberate focus on boredom and repetition, defies modernism. However, Demers and Wey avoid a specific definition of apocalyptic art. Instead, list making, classification, duplication, irony and cynicism are qualities which make up this apocalyptic tendency. Turning its back on even the reheated narratives of postmodernism, apocalyptic art represents a final taking-stock-of-things. Art is slowly, deliberately packing up and putting away, and then waiting patiently for the end.

    drone

    While Demers focuses on drone music as apocalyptic art, these same traits can be found in JG Ballard’s The Drought (1965), a book concerned with environmental apocalypse. Although not mentioned in Drone and Apocalypse, it was this far earlier work that came to mind while reading Demers. In The Drought, Ransom and a band of survivors cope with a cataclysmic drought by hoarding depleting water stocks and heading to the coast. Unlike apocalyptic novels which begin or end with the moment of collapse, The Drought takes us beyond that moment, and embraces the boredom, tawdry tensions, repetition and waiting of those who have reached the literal end of their world. The final third of the book takes place on a crowded, ruined beach where people desalinate hard-won puddles of water while dreaming of salvation. The deliberate anti-climatic quality of The Drought seems to capture Demers’ own sense of the apocalypse. Wey echoes the character of Ransom, with both waiting for a final apocalypse which has both already happened and never will. While Ransom had his marooned boat and beach, Wey exists in the more recognisable space of contemporary California.

    Demers provides some interesting historical background to the idea of the apocalypse—not an end, but an unveiling, a fundamental shift beyond human imagining. As such, and as with Ballard’s Drought, apocalypse has an after. We wait for the end but find ourselves with the post-end clean-up. The fiction of Demers’ book allows her to conceal what I feel is its core ambition—the mapping of a tendency in contemporary culture which is post-postmodernism. Demers mentioning contemporary culture as made up of “gore, fantasy and irony”, traits shared with postmodernism. However, she also sees repetition and dullness, coupled with a profound uncertainty. Through Wey, she posits a new form of culture which combines the weary stereotypes of the millennial with the apocalyptic fear of Millennialism. I would have liked to see more of this focused and original cultural criticism throughout the book. Demers uses Wey’s art as an example of apocalyptic art, rather than a route towards stronger examples.

    James Richards’ films would be one example of contemporary visual culture embodying Demers’ ideas of apocalypse. Nominated for the Turner Prize in 2014, Richards’ art combines installation, music and film. I saw Richards’ work in the Ars Viva show in Hamburg in 2015. For me, his work is as close to a visual representation of drone music as I have seen. Although I am more visual than musical, I found Richards’ films initially off-putting. They were discordant and repetitive and buried any narrative deep. I persisted, and the more I watched the more the nuances and texture were evident. The repetition became profound; the discordance moving. Like drone music, there is no tune or story to retell; rather, both create a powerful, immerse emotional impact.

    What is this book, then? It is at once an essay about apocalyptic culture, a reflection on the nature of apocalypse as the ‘great unveiling’, an experimental work of prose, a fictional portrayal of a failed artist and a work of futurism. In the spirit of apocalyptic culture, the book gives no answers but offers reflection and repetition. It also aims to be a gallery guide, a format which I feel, as a curator by trade, somewhat equipped to analyse. At its simplest, a gallery guide is a list of works and a memento of a show. Increasingly, catalogues combine essays by curators, academics and others to offer new perspectives on works of art. As such, they can act as a substitute for the exhibition itself. Here, this format allows Demers to approach the subject of apocalypse from multiple angles and voices.

    The great strength of this unusual work is its huge range of sources. It is a rich feast of ideas which provokes the reader long after being read. Despite a fairly traditional opening (on troubadour songs, of all things), it rapidly opens out its references and ideas. Demers is strongest on music, her academic discipline, but the reflections on literature and philosophy are engaging and interesting. It is hard to avoid wondering if Wey is a semi-autobiographical character. Wey calls herself a ‘failed artist’ more than once—is the academic who studies rather than creates art a failed artist in the same way? This experimental approach allows the academic to embrace fiction and innovation, which provides much-needed new ground for discussion. While the form is challenging or occasionally infuriating, it is hard not to enjoy a book that quotes Dostoyevsky and Morrissey, and finds such peacefulness and hope in the idea of apocalypse. ~ Zosia Silarska, Minor Literatures

  • Drone and Apocalypse
    Joanna Demers
    When I saw that this book existed, I had one of those moments that writers sometimes have. Someone had ticked one off, on the list of things I had hoped to do before I exit the world.

    I have long thought that someone needs to write a serious book on drone. That Joanna Demers has now done it, and in such an exemplificatory spirit, is delightful. This is so very far from a dry academic autopsy. There are roots to drone, but Demers doesn’t give us a tedious timeline or teleology.

    With music that never begins or ends, where time is irrelevant, why would you? Of course, drone has roots, and I have sketchily covered them as a music writer, over many years, hence my urge to collect my thoughts in a more systematic way. This book review had better do.

    You cannot approach this topic straight on. If writing about music is like dancing to architecture, writing about drone is like trying to recreate Malevich’s black square using only the discarded bits that collect under your hole punch. So I am not going to directly restate what you can read in Demers’ book here, though I am urging you to read it.

    When explaining drone to students – I am currently supervising a dissertation on noise in art – I usually look back to Yves Klein’s Monotone Symphony. Then to Tony Conrad, a member of La Monte Young’s Theater of Eternal Music in the 60’s, The Dream Syndicate, who was way ahead of the pack. So were Faust, with the ur-industrial drone, and they came together with Conrad, providing that metronomic pulse defined by a Neu! one-beat, now globally franchised as ‘Krautrock’, as Conrad relentlessly droned his violin over the top. Pure music, it makes the hairs on your arms stand up.

    So how does all this make meaning? That dangerous word, ‘pure’, means only that it is relatively untainted by genre. Here, in brief, is how I approach drone, particularly its flattened aesthetic. Its very particular temporality and duration. Drone often unfolds over time and does not, at the same time. It is one big moment. Movement and no movement in one. Listen to the last tracks on Eno’s Discreet Music for an example of this. Of course, some drone moves, some slightly, some drastically. But drone often invokes the constantly collapsing present moment of Heidegger, or buddhism. I could go into Bergson here, but this is a book review.

    Drone can be utopian, the blank space we need to move to, mirroring Attali’s concern that sound travels before other mediums. It is literally avant-garde in form, as it is unburdened with the demands of, say, sculpture making. That said, you can make a work with the equivalent impact of a large bronze, with the same presence, in a space, with sound, using drone. You can fill a vast aircraft hangar with something as brutalising and permanent as concrete and metal, using only noise.

    But still, how does it make meaning? There is a great deal to be gained here from writing about abstract painting. Drone often ‘hangs there’ like a painting. If you put a title on a very abstract, open piece, it tends to ground its meaning more, to narrow its range of possible significances. The same, for me, applies to drone. Adorno suggested that an effective modern piece will contain its own language. It will teach you how to read it as you take it in. They are monads, sealed units containing their own logic. But an effective modern piece will also contain a seed that can burst out and rupture itself, and all that lies around it. It is Revolutionary. Drone often teaches you how to read it. And drone can rupture. This is how I judge drone, qualitatively. It is how I read it.

    But Demers also presents us with a fiction to read. A science fiction. Her book is in that tradition, in the best examples of Ballard, and… well, Ballard. Just as Robinson’s film cans appear in a caravan, in Keiller’s Robinson In Ruins, and the fictional academic Gang Lion, in Vertical Features Remake, by Peter Greenaway, Demers’ book comes to us via fictional, rediscovered academic notes.

    For me, drone is both utopian and apocalyptic all at once. That requires you to look awry and take some deep breaths before writing. Demers does this and judges drone, through her fictional muse, on the apocalyptic side. She has written a dystopian sci-fi of noise.

    Again, I have personal touchstones here. Godspeed You Black Emperor’s 1997 debut ‘f#a#∞’ asked if the end of the world was coming. To me, at the time, it was. I listened to this record on my way to work. Couldn’t stop. My job in a bank was turning me to drink. The tech people there, at that point, didn’t know if the mythical ‘Millenium Bug’ would wipe everything away. I watched the Seattle protests and Genoa. 9/11 wasn’t far away, which I watched live, in the HBOS headquarters. I watched a massive financial institution destroyed from within one, on a screen used to show banking adverts to marketing staff. A delegation from the Twin Towers had been in that very room, only a month before.

    Godspeed were a scab I couldn’t stop picking, it hurt me. It bled more than it should, but it satisfied. The drone sections could go either way. They were blank spaces that flickered between the end of the world and the beginning of a new one. Between hope and its opposite. All that remains of them now is the Wagnerian apocalypse of Godspeed’s Yanqui U.X.O. The funeral drum and Orleans horns of ‘rocket falls on Rocket Falls’. Yanqui U.X.O is an elegy, a grand political wake. The cover artwork is typical of their approach, bombs fall on the front, we’re not sure who is dropping them or where, which gives the image great tension.

    These bombs are all bombs. On the back, the words ‘Yanqui U.X.O’ sit in the centre of a spider diagram. ‘Yanqui’, they say, is corporate imperialism, ‘U.X.O’ is unexploded ordnance, landmines. These words are then linked to Sony, British Aerospace and AOL Time Warner.

    This is how drone and noise is apocalyptic, it goes back to Hendrix and The Star Spangled Banner, a national anthem painted in napalm, with its roots in Chicago bar room amplification. Pure pragmatism, but those roots in turn reach further down, to slavery and Empire. So many records come on like easy listening versions of Klauz Schulze, Edgar Froese or Cluster. The ‘ambient compilation’, but there was little that was reassuringly cosy about the German pioneers. In this sense, I am wary of the zen comparisons to drone, although they can legitimately be made.

    ‘Bayreuth Return’ by Klauz Schulze signifies, it makes meaning. Think about it. Think about post-WW2 German culture. Think about how the word ‘Bayreuth’ inevitably resignifies after the holocaust.

    But that’s an old recording to bring up. So let’s examine the subject through a more recent one. Angel’s ‘Terra Null’, for Editions Mego. Get the CD. Examine it. The initial signs seemed to indicate a record about 17th and 18th century emerging imperialism, with track titles such as ‘Naked Land’ and ’Colonialists’. Put the CD on.

    ‘Naked Land’, betrays an almost spaghetti western sound, which seems to further underline the frontiersmanship. A guitar twangs, detuning and retuning, but the electronic side of the drones betray the time we’re in, and via this, Angel collapse ancient into modern, as Marx did when he talked about ‘primitive’ accumulation and the commodity as a kind of anthropological fetish.

    Somehow, this album by Angel puts us into that space, ‘Quake’ particularly, via slow drones, cello, oscillators, guitar and scree, it unfolds into what Dan Latimer called ‘a sublime appropriate for individual subjects fixed in some vast network of international business, blinking, clicking, whirring incessantly to transmit, like transistorized Jedi Knights, the power of the Force.’

    The buzzing, low tones simultaneously describe this evil landscape, at the same time as they try to open a crack in it, and of course speed is important here, temporality is crucial to capitalism, and to drone. To slow it right down is to resist. To speed up is to acquiesce.

    The antique etchings on the CD sleeve may be of ‘the new world’ of colonialism, but they become, simultaneously, dialectically, about the ‘new world’ we may be forced into, the place, as Jameson once told us, that we have no alternative but to go to. The past as the future. The two cancelled out by each other. This is ‘utopia’, terra null, a no-place, at least not yet. The last cut though, ‘Quake’, gets bible-apocalyptic, roaring like Sunn O))), or Merzbow. This is utopia and apocalypse as one. Hegel’s dialectic as two opposites in one whole, never combining, but bursting, absolutely seething with historical tension.

    Oval, for me, are so important to this topic. Oval are drone as the End of History. They are the sound of vacuous mall music glitched out endlessly to swallow all of time. They are a formal translation of the flattening of our cultural landscapes into a substance so thin that it now covers everything. Their titles are also crucial to this, ‘Lens-Flared Capital’, for instance.

    Faust hinted at what was to come when opening their first album. The radio sweeps over the scree of interference, as All You Need Is Love flashes up, and is then smashed to pieces by noise. That, they say, is what happened to all of that, as Baader-Meinhof rose. Their spectre has just returned. Here is the logical extension of Revolution 9 by The Beatles, with its reference to Beethoven’s last symphony. Gesamtkustwerk as smashed fragments. Noise as historical symphony, that ensures another Historical Symphony can never be written.

    Beethoven was nearly deaf when the Ninth was premiered, and recording equipment did not exist. Since then, hundreds of recordings of it have been made. We have heard the Ninth more times, and better, than its writer. In this, Demers is absolutely correct to approach the topic through science fiction: Leif Inge’s Beet 9 Stretch slowed down Beethoven’s Ninth until it lasted for 24 hours, with no pitch distortions. This piece does many things, but one thing it has to do, before all the others, is flatten the Ninth into a millimetre thin surface, in order to squeeze the excess of signification out of it. This is one thing that drone can do well. Beethoven’s Ninth has become so overloaded with signification and connotation that it has imploded, in the way Faust made All You Need Is Love collapse. The Ode To Joy has a hundred meanings, the european anthem, film music, adverts.

    This is the same thing as Demers’ opening reflections on ancient music that has been transcribed in detail and left to us, yet we will never know for certain how it sounded. The first performance of the Ninth was perhaps the last time this would be the case. With drone, transcription is often pointless, the space, medium and document is the music.

    But once the Ninth has been flattened by Leif Inge, and the piece is being played on an endless loop, in a huge space, it becomes a new site of radical potential, which doesn’t completely erase its own suturing join with the historical, something the philosopher Catherine Malabou is very concerned about.

    Drone gives you the space where utopia and dystopia, the tabula rasa and apocalypse are one. Where they fold into each other. Demers gives us this, in the form of a musicology as dystopian sci-fi. She explores what I have outlined here through Tim Hecker and Celer, via Boethius. She has taken risks, and they pay off. She was the right person to open a serious debate about drone in book form, not me.

    Now it is up to us to carry on the conversation in the spirit of her annunciation. Here is my offering as an invocation. Snow, snow, snow come on snow, blast it all blind into a wiped, white VHS crackle. Lose the landscape and this sadness, in drifts no gritter can pass.

    Your instructions. Get this book, put Oval on repeat. Think, reflect, think, write. Repeat. ~ Steve Hanson, New Cross Review of Books

  • Death, the Last God
    Anne Geraghty
    ‘I have been truly moved by this book, especially for creating a subtle sense of death and life that is restrained and intelligent. It isn’t easy to stay on the borders of fact and wonder, but Anne does this in a marvellous way. She writes well and beautifully blends the story of her son with her rich ideas. I’ve enjoyed this book and learned from it. I’m so glad to have read this. I found this book the most exciting that I’ve read in a long time. I don’t have that reaction frequently. I rarely find a contemporary spiritual book that really instructs me and helps me think something through.’ ~ Thomas Moore, Spiritual writer, author of many books including best-selling Care of the Soul

  • Death, the Last God
    Anne Geraghty
    ‘This is one of the most profound books I know about death and its relationship to love and life. It offers a rare level of insight into the dynamics of life and death and the way in which the love we create can transcend death. There is much more I could say about this epic book, but I encourage readers to make their own deep journey through it and reflect on how it applies to each of us. The book is subtitled ‘a modern book of the dead’ and I think it more than lives up to its title with invaluable insights that can be gleaned from it as a guide not only to death, but ultimately to living our lives to the full.’ ~ David Lorimer, Programme Director of the Scientific and Medical Network and Editor of Network Review

  • Clampdown
    Rhian E. Jones
    "This is it. This is what cultural studies scholars should have been writing in the last ten years. Instead of walking away from discussions of the political economy or - even worse - becoming apologists (cheerleaders?) for the neoliberal reclamation of power after the Global Financial Crisis, cultural studies scholars should have got angry, got political and got busy to understand class, gender and race through the 2010s. [...] Jones investigates what has happened to working class women (and men) in and through popular culture in the last two decades. This is not a book about representation. This is a book about invisibility. " ~ Tara Brabazon, https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1543240209?book_show_action=true

  • Boundary
    Mary Victoria Johnson
    Finally, a YA novel that isn't cliched! None of the usual irritating love triangles, corrupt governments and super hot sixteen year olds that you normally see in YA novels these days - instead, BOUNDARY is full of shocking plot twists, realistic characters and vividly imagined scenery. This novel's characters are so deeply portrayed that I often forget they aren't real people, and even more often I wish that they were. Penny, Fred, Lucas, Evelyn, Tressa and Avery are some of my favorite book characters, counting every book I've ever read (which is a lot). MARY VICTORIA JOHNSON is truly one of the best authors to have come around in a long time, and I can't wait for the next OTHER HORIZONS novel to come out. ~ Annabel , Goodreads

  • Free Dakota
    William Irwin
    Free Dakota is both an entertaining and informative read. Simply put, it explains basic tenets of Libertarianism within the context of an engaging narrative that makes it very easy to understand. The author skillfully weaves complex thoughts and ideas into the flow of an interesting story filled with a host of colorful characters, each representative of people in today’s times. I find politics in our country so ironic: we are a nation that prides itself on diversity, melting pot, respecting different cultures, etc., yet we are supposed to be pigeon holed into two political parties? The time has come for at least one of if not more viewpoints to be taken seriously. Free Dakota presents the Libertarian one in a clear manner that is neither boring nor preachy. It is a story that reads for pleasure, yet it makes one think about some really serious concepts without feeling like they studied a textbook. ~ Keith Goggin, Amazon

  • Firebird Chronicles, The
    Daniel Ingram-Brown
    The Nemesis Charm, The second book in Daniel Ingram-Brown’s Firebird Chronicles, jumps straight into the action a little while after the first book ended. We see our apprentice adventurers and brother-and-sister duo Fletcher and Scoop battle pirates and their old enemy Grizelda. Their ultimate task, given to them by their mentor: to cross the Un-Crossable Boundary and save the lives of many of their friends, who have fallen into a deep sleep from which they cannot be awoken.

    The first thing I noticed about this book was that it is considerably darker than the first book in the series. The story launches straight into the action, with knife fights and horrible punishments from Grizelda, the series’ main villain: “With lightning speed she pulled a knife from the folds of her cloak and lunged forward … The old woman had stabbed him through the hand, the blade slicing clean through his flesh, embedding itself into the mast. She twisted it.” It’s descriptions like these that make me imagine the scene much more vividly than if it were written without them.

    One thing that I liked a lot was the quick switches between perspective throughout the whole story, showing the reader what each character was doing in the same scene at the same time. It created a sense of urgency, especially when they were carrying out secret missions to save people. This is especially useful when the characters actions are important to the story but they are miles away from each other; for example, Fletcher and Scoop are lost in a story, an odd vision that allows them to see and feel that they are in a different place; the scene cuts to the Storyteller, miles away in the Kingdom of Alethea, watching the Apprentices through his pool of silver threads (a bit like the crystal ball in The Wizard of Oz, where the witch can watch over Dorothy); and then the scene cuts back to Fletcher and Scoop again. It’s almost like a cutaway in a film, but that small segment adds so much to the story.

    Similar to this, the story sometimes cuts away to the ‘real world’, our world, which becomes a huge twist in the story. I won’t reveal the twist (no spoilers!), but linking the fantasy world to our real world was something that I thought was a genius idea. You’ll just have to read it to find out how it works.

    Finally, the story ends on a massive cliffhanger! As I read the final couple of chapters I began to wonder how the story can be wrapped up in only a few pages, but lo and behold, the cliffhanger ending left me wanting the next piece of the story right now.

    Overall, The Nemesis Charm definitely didn’t disappoint. It had the fast-paced energy and action of the previous book, great character developments (if you know me you’ll know I love a good bit of character development) and an ending that leaves you pining for more.

    The Verdict: 4 and a half stars ~ Charlotte, Wonderfully Bookish

  • Firebird Chronicles, The
    Daniel Ingram-Brown
    This is a very unique and entertaining young adult fantasy novel. The premise of the brother and sister team of apprentice adventurers is unlike any other fantasy novel I have read, which is saying a lot. I find these days that most fantasy novels are similar and follow a standard structure, but this was so different than anything I have ever read and I loved it.


    Dan’s writing style is so easy to follow and he has a way of really bringing the reader onto Fullstop Island and really immersing the reader in the action taking place. The Nemesis Charm is actually the second book Dan has written about Fletcher and Scoop. I have not read the first but found for the most part I didn’t need to read the first to understand what was happening in this novel. I found the characters to be very likable, especially Scoop. I think I can see some of myself in her and I enjoyed her character development throughout the story. Fletcher made me so mad at some points. I still like his character, though, and I think he is a nice complement to Scoop.


    The world Dan has created is also amazing. I enjoyed reading about Fullstop Island, the Academy, voyages across the sea, and small villages. He really creates almost a fairy tale world, complete with an evil witch and a damsel in distress (their mother). I really enjoyed the idea that Fletcher and Scoop learned more outside of the classroom than in the classroom which was prevalent throughout the novel. I think this is so true in real life. You can learn a lot in the classroom, but the biggest lessons can’t be taught by a teacher, you have to learn them on your own. This book really captured that idea.


    Teenagers, children, and adults will find this book entertaining and will be glad they picked it up. I would recommend this book for ages 10 and up. It would be a great book for parents to read with their children. ~ Kristin, Kristin Reads

  • Firebird Chronicles, The
    Daniel Ingram-Brown
    It has been a really long time since I have gone on such a fun and action packed adventure like the one found in within the pages of The Nemesis Charm.

    The story opens with an intense boat race, and that is only the beginning of the adventure. Siblings Fletcher and Scoop soon set out to try and find a cure for the sickness that seems to have come out of nowhere and is affecting countless people in their world. But like any good adventure story there are obstacles and fears that they must overcome to do so. This book is filled with magic, excitement, and pirates. Really what more could you ask for? This is a really fun story that will keep the reader engaged until the very end.

    This is such a wonderful Middle-Grade book for many different reasons. I’ll start with the more physical book reasons, and then move on to the story based ones. First off the chapters in this book are short, and the ones that are a bit longer have breaks in them. This is great for Middle-Grade readers, it is really conducive for shorter attention spans, and more short bursts of reading than truly long haul binging. Also the overall length of the book is great, it is substantial enough that the readers can read a well developed story, but it is also short enough that it is not overwhelming.

    Now for the positive bits about the actual story. This book has a great balance of male and female characters which will appeal to all readers. Also this book is action packed, there is no lag in the story where some younger children would lose interest. One of my favorite elements of this book is how the author includes detail without becoming wordy and overwhelming. (Overwhelming amounts of details in Middle-Grade books is one of my biggest pet peeves and something that I am always on the lookout for.)Also this book does take place in two different worlds, which is honestly something that makes me nervous in any book. Personally I just get confused usually and I don’t like all of the jumping around in the story. However this element was really well executed in this book.

    Another great aspect of this book that should be mentioned is the way in which the characters handle their fears. They acknowledge their fears and are not ashamed of them. The characters embrace their fears and work together to overcome them. I think that this is something that is so extremely important for Middle-Grade children to see.

    As for rating this book I will give it a 4 for quality and a 3 for popularity. I think that this book does have a wide appeal for Middle-Grade readers. So with a bit of a push I think it could become an EXTREMELY popular series both in the UK where it is published, and in other countries as well. So overall this book scores a total of 7 out of 10 from me!

    **It should be noted that this is the second book in “The Firebird Chronicles,” so there is plenty of adventure to be had and still yet to come.** ~ Kaitlyn, Bookish Lady Blog

  • Mistletoe Haunting, The
    David Slattery-Christy
    5*
    The Perfect Christmas Gift
    Mr Slattery-Christy's book is a superbly crafted work with an engaging and sympathetic protagonist. Moving between modern times and the Edwardian era it gradually unravels a moving tale about a young innocent betrayed by those around her. David Slattery Christy's narrative is absolutely convincing and flawless in its depiction of Edwardian England and its social milieu.
    As the book moved towards its conclusion it was impossible to stop reading and it was a page turner.
    The villain receives their just desserts.
    This sensitively written tale is highly recommended. ~ A Gaelan, Amazon

  • Pagan Portals - Candle Magic
    Lucya Starza
    Subtitled: ‘A witch’s guide to spells and rituals’, this is the practical spell book Treadwells has been waiting for. Candle spells are among the easiest yet also the most effective to perform. They are perfect for anyone who wants to have a go at casting a spell for the first time and for the solitary witch with a busy life. ~ Treadwells, http://www.treadwells-london.com/shop/candle-magic-lucya-starza/

  • Zen City
    Eliot Fintushel
    Author and performance artist Fintushel blends Asian philosophy with science fiction in a mind-melting exploration of love, loss, and cultural appropriation. Like every other “hick” on the outside of the City, Big Man dreams of gaining access to it: a place of pure Buddha-nature, where every inhabitant has abandoned desire and reached a state of absolute oneness. Unable to enter by official channels, Big Man enlists the help of his would-be lover, Angela, to sneak in through a back way. In the process, he attracts the attention of the supposed bodhisattva No Mind and the less-than-holy Buddhist teacher Bobo Shin, who pursue him into the City for their own ends. Each character is fascinatingly developed in a somewhat Dadaist fashion, all while moving the plot along. Fintushel’s goal is never to mock or deride Buddhism itself, but rather to expose the ways in which the Eightfold Path is corrupted by human nature; in that regard, this book succeeds brilliantly, deftly weaving a tragic romance that’s about all of us, and none at all. (Featured review (June) online and in print) ~ PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

  • I, Human
    John Nelson
    Humans have been upgraded to be more efficient. But those upgrades come with a price, less connection to the people around them. This loss of emotional ties makes work hard for some people. Alan Reynard works for a contractor. He shows a level of empathy and intuition rarely found in enhanced humans. This makes him both useful and feared.
    Those who choose not to become enhanced are referred to as "borny". Alan has infiltrated borny communities in the past looking for trouble and signs of unrest. His most recent deep cover involved a pretend marriage to Emma. They had a deeper connection, one that is a concern to the government, but there is a greater problem.
    Alan is sent to the Southwest to infiltrate a community of spiritual healers. In order to learn about the group, Alan undergoes a healing. The healing creates paths and options which open up the future, a future that some don't want to come about. He must decide whether to help or hinder the makers of the enhancements that allow him access to great insights.
    This novel is set in an established universe, but does not seem to be a direct sequel to the previous entrants. I was able to follow the story without having read any of the earlier material. Although hinted at, I would have liked to see a little more of borny society and how they view enhanced humans.
    The story is told from the first person perspective. It follows Alan through his journeys. This is a big switch from the third person multi-POV novels I have been reading recently. The clean prose doesn't get lost in changing perspectives allowing readers to just go with the flow of the story.
    The thing that drew me to this story was the idea of bio-enhanced humans. This exploration was focused on normal individuals. This in contrast to the military science fiction where I first encountered enhanced brains where most of the enhanced were soldiers. The encounters of soldiers are focused on survival and battle, not humans becoming all they can in noncombat situations. The tech in military SF is often more tech- than bio- based.
    There was also a little hint of the potential for the future as people reach their full potential. I definitely recommend this novel for people looking to explore the bounds of humanity. I am also likely to go check out some of the author's earlier works to see how this world developed. ~ Bill Lawhorn, SFRevu

  • Facing the Darkness
    Cat Treadwell
    As I began to read the book, I further warmed to it. Cat Treadwell approaches the 'topic' from a decidedly pagan and druidic point of departure, but that doesn't preclude its quiet wisdom from being available to non-Pagans and non-Druids. This is not a work of psychotherapy or clinical psychology (I can hear the murmurs of appreciation as I type), but a book written from the heart by someone who clearly knows the 'dark place' well. It is structured around the four elements (Earth, Air, Fire and Water). Its primary message, came across loudly as a compassionate but nonetheless urgent appeal to those languishing in the 'dark place' to understand that the way out of it lies in their own hands. To this end there is a succession of ideas, some quite challenging, aimed at understanding what the 'dark place' is and what role it might have in someone's life. To accompany these is a series of personal testimonies, and these underline another theme of the book: 'You (we) are not alone in this; others have been there as well,' a seriously important point to make because the dark well can be a desperately lonely place. ~ OBOD, http://www.druidry.org/library/book-reviews/facing-darkness

©2015 John Hunt Publishing Ltd.