Sweet Baby James in the Snow

From the living room boom box, I hear James Taylor singing his greatest hits. I purchased the CD to replace the LP I could no longer play, and I enjoyed it as long as I could. However, along with “borrowed” equipment that remains on-loan to this day, the resident teens would toss the nearest CD out of its case if they couldn’t find the one they needed, leaving the ousted disc to be damaged in various ways. JT’s Greatest Hits was one such victim, eventually found covered with scratches and dust. An apologetic offer to clean and polish the disc resulted in further damage – it turns out that you have to go from start to finish with the polishing process to get good results.

But, miracles happen, and the CD is playing through now, as I type. I have been to Carolina in my mind, saved my goodbyes for the morning light, and seen fire and rain. More than that, I have traveled backwards in time …

I found myself at Star Lake, in the Adirondacks, site of a cross-country skiing phys. ed. class. We were taught how to wax our skis, attach our shoes to the bindings, and “kick off” with our feet while doing something with our arms – I was flailing around, but that wasn’t it. Already suffering from the usual monthly discomforts, I was faced with further agonies: my long hair caught in the ski wax, my natural clumsiness made balancing on the skis impossible, and my thermal long johns were no match for the amount of soggy snow and ice that accumulated with every landing I made in the snow. And that was just the first night.

Saturday morning, we headed out on the trails for an eight-mile loop through the forest. The snow averaged 3-feet deep, but there was a crust of ice over the surface that made things interesting. Once we got moving, we could hit some impressive speeds, but if we fell, we dropped below the level of our skis and climbing back up was difficult no matter how often we practiced the maneuver. By late in the trip, our class had sorted itself into clusters by expertise, with a few showoffs already back at the cabin guzzling hot cocoa, several people actually taking their time to enjoy the scenery and exercise, and a handful of struggling newbies doing as much travel vertically from ground to skis as we did horizontally along the trail.

I didn’t learn how to ski that weekend. Instead, in the quiet evening hours, I hauled out my guitar and learned how to play Sweet Baby James.

This afternoon, through the miracle of music, I traveled back in time, finding far more pleasure in remembering the weekend than I had enduring it. I wonder if James Taylor remembered the snow-covered Turnpike that way, far more beautiful in retrospect from a warm cottage, having safely completed his trip.


Fiddling with Clip Art

Never one to admit defeat without a battle (or two) we will yet again take a stab at the challenge of Clip Art.

Since this is a blog that stands alone, being temporarily used in conjunction with a work-related educational program, part of the challenge has been inspiration: what would I want to say that could be enhanced by clip art?  By now, my friend Peter Wimsey would have come up with a hundred or more clever posts enhanced by the perfect bits of imagery; I lack his creativity.

Instead, I have allowed Reality to suggest something.  Since tonight is the weekly downtown acoustic jam session, I decided to see if Microsoft offers clip art images of the instruments we usually feature and create

a little “virtual jam”, but, unfortunately the only instrument that made the trip from the internet to my computer was this one fiddle.

SoundtrackLonesome Fiddle Blues.


Sit! Stay!

The “Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks” educational program is almost at an end, and the time has come to review what we’ve learned — assuming we have learned anything — and how easy it was to do so, which is why I qualify the concept of what we’ve learned.

I’ve been using the Internet for communication for 10 years now. Anything before 1998 was cautious exploration of the Internet through friends in the school district where we used to live. When personal computers first became available, I resisted wholeheartedly: all I could imagine was allowing Big Brother into our homes, surrendering our privacy and plugging ourselves into a grid from which no escape was possible. I still feel that way, sometimes, but when I discovered email, and thus found a way to communicate with friends scattered across the country without the expense of phone bills, I embraced the computer eagerly. Now, I even own a personal computer I do not share with the rest of the family, so the addiction, the invasion of the body snatchers, is complete. One of them, one of them..

Getting Started, Using a blog, the educational video [Activities 1-3]. For the past two years, I’ve had an account at what began as a writer’s site but has devolved rapidly into a social networking site. Before that, I had started a MySpace account through which I helped promote musician friends, and also managed to keep in touch with a distant niece. A bunch of us codgers started MySpace accounts as a way to storm the Youth Castle with traditional music; I had the spirit to join the charge, but not the courage to post videos or audio files, so the MySpace account is more of a relic than anything else. I moved on to Gather and started “conversing” with the writers there. Soon enough, I was writing stories of my own, and my toy hedgehogs became site celebrities. By the time Gather became too commercially oriented, with too many redesign upgrades that left content impossible to find, I was already working on this WordPress Blog.

As a result, many of the Activities of the Old Dogs/New Tricks program were more review sessions than new challenges. I loved the explanations that were given, as they put techniques into context and helped me to realize how much I have taught myself over the past decade, and over the past two years in particular. I also was able to use Activities to enhance what I’d learned.

Digital photos [Activities 4-6]. Thanks to artists on Gather, I found myself eager to learn use of a digital camera and purchased one I found on sale at Wegmans. It’s been just a little over a year now, and my camera has become a constant companion. I have used it to help myself learn tree identification, for example: rather than keeping my book with me, or ripping samples of fruits, leaves, buds, and bark off the poor trees, I’ve taken photos of these things and then referred to my books. I downloaded Picasa when I got the camera and wanted to share my photos, so for Activities 4, 5, and 6, I compared this program and its tools to those available through Picnik and Flickr. I prefer using the system I have in place, ultimately, because the photos are either on my computer or they are where I placed them at Gather or on my WP blog. Adding the extra stop at Flickr was simply leaving my images in an extra location and seemed unnecessary.

Generators [Activity 7]. I explored the tip of the Generator Blog’s vast iceberg of generators and eventually came to the conclusion that, while I loved the creativity, I would rapidly grow weary of a repeating message or “clever” little gizmo. it was more fun to play with the various generators on that site, and leave them there.

Placemarkers [Activities 9 & 10]. I understand, now, the concept behind Del.icio.us — especially now that so many Gather friends have moved away to create their own blogs. They don’t write for the satisfaction of the exercise, they write with a desire to be read. If I assist them by increasing their visibility in some way, in the vast flood of info search engines turn up, I’m doing them a real favor. Alas, I’m not that good a friend. I am more the selfish sort, preferring to read what they write for my own enjoyment, and that’s why I set up a Bloglines account with which to track their writings. The great news is that now I know when they post something new; the disappointing news is that several of them “flag” their articles so that children do not stumble across idioms their parents might not want to translate. As such, I see the titles, but not the whole articles. C’est la vie.

Sight and Sound! [Activities 11-14]. Once again, I was ahead of the curve for much of this, since my kids and husband often call me over to see a new YouTube or Glumbert video, and many of my talented friends have audio files available through their websites. I learned how to embed a video here on Tangled Strings — yahoo! — and figured out what to say about them. The podcasts from NPR turn out to be wonderful ways to keep up with their programs and special features, so that was a boon Going to Microsoft’s site to get clip art required letting that organization reach inside the guts of my computer and see if I am honest and worthy enough to merit browsing their clip art. I’m legal, but I resent the inspection, which assumes I am not, so I aborted that stop and found another site, and then another… and I still haven’t figured out how to be certain the image is free and usable.  So, I’m reduced to this:


It’s been a wonderful exercise in learning, in deepening my understanding, and in pushing myself to complete assignments. This old dog learned some new tricks, and developed a better appreciation for the old tricks as well.

Red-Haired Boys

One of the “Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks” challenges was to learn to embed videos in our blogs. The truth of the matter is, I had an easier time figuring out the mechanics of that process than I did coming up with a reason for embedding a video in my blog. I finally decided that the best I could do was use this as an opportunity to explore regional variations and stylistic interpretations on fiddle tunes, and I randomly selected the Celtic tune Red-Haired Boy.

As a fiddle student, I have always had the option of reacquainting myself with sheet music, which I learned to read more than 30 years ago, in high school, when I played flute. Unfortunately, I stopped playing my flute by the time I left college, and now when I look at a score, I can easily finger my flute keys for the right note, but not translate that same knowledge to the fingerboard of my fiddle. It’s not impossible to overcome this, but considering the difficulty in reading sheet music now that I’ve reached the Age of Bifocals, it’s no longer the easiest route for learning to play the fiddle.

Instead, as I report to my lessons, the first question my teacher, Hope, asks is “What have you been working on?” This is because I sit in on a fiddle jam every week, and whatever song sticks in my head is the one I am most likely to have struggled with afterwards. Hope has taught me a few songs from scratch — such as Bus Stop, which we never play on Tuesdays — but the vast majority of tunes I work on are those I hear often enough to have them memorized. Hope helps me find the missing notes and refines my bowing techniques, but every so-often, we run into the issue of “that’s not how I learned that song.” Hope is quick to agree that there is no “right” way to play the old songs — it’s the regional variations that keep the songs alive. With that in mind, here are three videos I found of fiddlers playing Red-Haired Boy.

This video features the Sierra Swing Conspiracy at the Auburn Bluegrass Fest II; here we have a couple of young men taking some serious detours away from the standard version:

This video has Red-Haired Boy as the second tune in the medley they perform. The fiddler is Qristina Bachand, and the video is from Victoria, B.C. at the 2006 Saanich Fair:

And, for yet another variation, we have the Urban Ramblers on the Bruin Walk at UCLA:

No two versions alike, and none of them the same as the version Hope taught me or the way we play Red-Haired Boy downtown on Tuesdays. A few years ago, I traveled with several other musicians from Binghamton up to the NYS Fiddlers Hall of Fame in Redfield, NY (near Watertown, if you need a larger spot on the map) where we heard fiddlers from the Syracuse area play wildly different versions of familiar tunes, and the same thing happened when I sat in at a jam in Watkins Glen last summer.

The variations never leave the song unrecognizable: the chord pattern the guitar plays to back up the fiddler remains constant, and the gifted fiddlers are free to take flight like kites while the guitar holds the string that ties them to the structure of the song. Other than that, Red-Haired Boy is a lively tune kept alive the best way possible, not by being frozen in place on a piece of sheet music but by springing to life from fiddles, banjos, and guitars everywhere Celtic music is played.

New Authors, Listening Readers

In the two years I have been writing on-line, the real benefit has been meeting those who write far better than I ever will, in any style or genre. I don’t yearn for them to achieve Fame or Status or Celebrity, and yet, I do often wish that more people could read their writing.

On one site, we are able to email links to the stories we’ve enjoyed, and thus assist in growing the reading audience. This means we can share with our friends who are also able to connect to the internet. We can also print off a paper copy of a story and share it, but then we get into the murky territory of intellectual property rights and possible copyright infringement.

Libraries have always been treasure troves: books and magazines were joined by new media as they came into existence. Innovative librarians found ways to transform libraries from storehouses to portals, offering Internet access and digital downloads. The limitation to all this, in my opinion, is the dividing line between published and non-published material in the formal, traditional sense.

Enter the new website Sniplits. This innovative on-line service connects new, aspiring, talented — and dedicated — writers the chance to be heard. Yes: writers can be heard, not read. Sniplits offers the literate listener the chance to download smaller works to fill those times when a full novel is too much. Their own description is of stories to fill up a coffee break, a lunch hour, a trip to the dentist, or just a short drive. Certainly, an audiobook would allow listening to a few paragraphs, a page, or a chapter — whatever fits the timeframe — but this would just be a portion of the whole work. Sniplits offers a complete work, and subscribers to their site can browse by length of time for a work as easily as by genre or author.

Best of all, any writer may submit their work. It is the chance for new writers to find their audience, by way of filling the niche in their daily schedule. My poetic friend, who presents herself as a Little Fluffy Cat, has recently been accepted as an author at Sniplits. For a nominal fee listeners can download her original story The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and they are then free to store that story on an iPod, their computer, iPhone, or any other compatible device, and even share the story with up to 10 friends.

Sniplits fills several niches this way: the reader’s need for a story, the author’s need for an audience. I’m wondering if libraries — where authors can sometimes come to read their works, and often come to write them — might someday be able to offer this same service.

The Arrow Book of Funny Poems

Our house is filled with books. There isn’t a room that doesn’t contain an overflowing bookshelf or several boxes or stacks of books, and in the crawlspaces there are still more boxes that we never unpacked.  Not only are Galahad and I voracious readers, our parents were also devoted to reading, so we inherited many books from our fathers.  Our children added plenty more to the collections, and even after two sons moved out and brought their favorites (and some of mine…) with them, I can still browse through the titles here and remember which book was the favorite of which son.

I own two copies of one thin paperback, stored in a place of honor on the top shelf of our beautiful oak bookcase.  My first copy was purchased in 1966 — second or third grade for me: The Arrow Book of Funny Poems.  It is well-used, well-loved, and well-worn, and has a cover price of $.35.

Eleanor Clymer collected this wonderful assortment of whimsical poetry and song lyrics back in 1961, and the copyright dates on the poems themselves go back much farther: the oldest copyright is 1901 by Miss Louise Anderson, for the poems I Wish That My Room Had a Floor and The Invisible Bridge, both by Gelett Burgess.  The former poem is a limerick I memorized decades ago and still recite when it seems appropriate:

I wish that my room had a floor;
I don’t so much care for a door,
But this walking around
Without touching the ground
Is getting to be quite a bore!

I acquired my newer copy just a few years ago, when I was still working at a public library.  We kept a truck of donated books in each department as an ongoing book sale to support the purchase of new library materials. I was browsing the cart one day when I spied a nearly pristine copy of this beloved book! A 1969 reprint, the cover price had risen to $.50.

There is no describing the joy this discovery brought me.  My original copy of The Arrow Book of Funny Poems is not long for this world if I continue to flip through it.  The pages are yellowed and chipped, and the cover is torn and broken.  This damage is not from careless mishandling but from the constant usage the book has seen over the course of forty years.

The minute I have this book in mind, I can envision the illustrations — the ones published in the book, and the ones my childhood self drew next to some of my favorite verses.  I can remember my brother R reading aloud Song of the Pop-Bottlers by Morris Bishop.  That poem is filled with opportunities to twist the tongue, and well into our teens, R and I would take turns reading it aloud as fast as we could.  R was always a clown anyway; he would have me in tears of mirth, gasping for air (I’m laughing now, just remembering those readings.)  As an adult, I took time to share many of these same poems with my sons, right along with the folktales and other stories we read together.

There are 128 poems in this collection, of which I have memorized 34.  There are limericks, odes, lyrics, and other forms of rhyme for which I do not know the proper names.  There are authors given, whose names meant nothing to me in 1966, but now mean a great deal: Laura E. Richards (whose mother wrote the lyrics to The Battle Hymn of the Republic), Ogden Nash, Lewis Carroll, Stephen C. Foster, W.S. Gilbert, Carl Sandburg, and Edward Lear.

The poignant discovery of adulthood involved my favorite author, and what “his” identity may mean in the Cosmic Scheme of Things.  As a child, I assumed this was someone like Aesop — another favorite author — and so did not question the unusual nature of the name.  I often asserted that “he” was my favorite poet, and my parents’ funny expressions never really registered back then.  As an adult in my own right now, I realized who my favorite author was, and along with that realization came the bitter truth of history and memory…


Songs I Wish Everyone Could Hear

I spend almost no time at all with recorded music.  With the exception of the songs I have uploaded from CDs to my computer at work, I have no electronic means of listening to anything — but, I’m not complaining.  The music I hear is all produced “live” — either I play it for myself, or I am in the audience somewhere enjoying what musicians are playing on stage.  My CD collection is almost entirely purchased directly from the musicians who wrote the music and made the recordings.

While reading the lists my friends have created, containing the songs they love and why they love them, it occurred to me that this was a perfect format for promoting the music and musicians I have come to love and admire.  With that, I present here a quick list of some favorite artists, with links to places where I found sound samples whenever possible.

Paul Kaplan.  Paul is based in Massachusetts, home of Click & Clack, the Tappit Brothers, and he actually got his song This Old Car included on their radio program!  If the link I am inserting works, you will be able to hear samples of songs off Paul’s After the Fire CD, one of my favorites — when was the last time you heard The Leaving of Liverpool?  I recommend Give My Bones to Greyhound if you want travelin’ music, and there is no sweeter song I have ever heard than So I Could Get to You for a declaration of love.  Look for Paul on YouTube, also.

Zoe Mulford.  I cannot praise this musician highly enough. She comes second on this list only because she lives in Manchester, England, now and as such her US appearances are limited.  Please visit her website and see if she’ll be in your area, because live music is best, but otherwise buy one or both of her CDs.  They are worth twice the price.  The link in her name should also bring up audio samples.  It’s hard to choose a favorite, but  Songs of Love and Distance off her Traveling Moon CD is a beautiful example of her crystalline voice and her wise lyrics all at once.  From Roadside Saints, I recommend Gonna Wear Red (an anthem for discarding rules) or American Wake (a true Irish wink of a song.)

Cosy Sheridan. The first time I heard Cosy, she was recording the song Hannibal Crossed the Alps for a Folk DJ’s radio show.  I was enchanted: a perfect and accurate history lesson in song.  Since then, I’ve read about Cosy’s work in teaching young women about the traps of false standards of beauty, so while I am a devoted fan of her music, I am even more in awe of the woman herself.  For a second song, I recommend How Will the Center Hold for those who want power and The Land of 10,000 Mothers for something sweet.  I’ve been teaching myself Walk On:

You are warned: any road is long / You are warned: any road is hard / There’s a boatload of “good advice” / It’s better just to disregard

John Flynn. A powerful young man writing the songs of social conscience for a new generation, he writes of international and inter-personal politics — just go and check out his lyrics.  There are song samples on John’s website, but most are of his children’s songs.  (Parents: he’s got some great songs for the kids!)  I love all the tracks on John’s CDs, but if I had to pick just two for you to hear I’d go with Put Your Freedom Where Your Mouth Is off his Two Wolves CD and Minnie Lou off his Dragon CD.

Kim & Reggie Harris.  Each and every time I have heard Kim & Reggie, it was a transporting musical experience — live and powerful, it felt like I’d been to an opera with a full pit orchestra, but up on stage it is only Reggie with his magic guitar and Kim’s dynamic vocals: check out music samples from all their CDs here.  (I’d also like to brag here that Reggie once borrowed my guitar.)  You have never heard Follow the Drinking Gourd better than Reggie plays it on their CD Steal Away, and the song Too Many Martyrs (The Ballad of Medgar Evans) on the CD Rock of Ages is a personal favorite.  Their website also offers an exclusive audio file they recorded with Peter Yarrow and his daughter Bethany.  Kim and Reggie sing the title track on What’s That I Hear: The Songs of Phil Ochs — a CD guaranteed to knock your socks off.

Johnsmith.  All one word for the name but he uses a lot more of them in his songs, and the pictures he paints with his words, the stories he tells, are just right for someone whose children are grown and off on their own life travels.  This age, sometimes called the “empty nest,” is a time for reflection, remembrance, and renewals, and I hear all of that in John’s songs.  Personal favorite songs are Survivors — a meditation on trees — and Kickin’ This Stone, the title track of my favorite Johnsmith CD.

If you follow even one of the links here, I hope it has helped you discover a new musician, a new song, or the inspiration to write about your own favorite music.  I feel as though this is only the first installment in a series…

Fiddling with Books at Walton’s Library

100_5686.jpgHope and I drove out to the William B. Ogden Library in Walton, NY, to present our Fiddling with Books program. I remember how this room looked just after the 2006 floods ravaged the community, with a loss of 12,000 books in this very room. What a change! Not a hint of the flood damage remains, save for the absence of books on this level. Instead, this is a bright, cheery community room for meetings or programs like this one.


We always start our program with When Uncle Took the Fiddle by Libba Moore Grey.  I pretend to be a tired, sleepy farmhand while Hope plays a bit of Brahms’ Lullabye. Once Uncle takes the fiddle off the shelf, though, we kick off Miss MacLeod’s Reel, also known as Uncle Joe (with lyrics including “Did you ever go to meetin’ Uncle Joe? Uncle Joe?”)

After that, we discuss the dangers of claiming someone can out-fiddle the Devil himself, as happens in Phyllis Root’s Rosie’s Fiddle. We play the soundtrack of the fiddle contest with Growling Old Man, Grumbling Old Woman with a quick switch to Devil’s Dream for the grand finale. Listening to those fiddle tunes, you don’t need to read the book to figure out who wins.


One of our favorite books in the program is Moose Music by Sue Porter — the cover illustration alone is hilarious. Moose comes across an old fiddle mired in muck — never a good sign — and decides to play some songs… a bit of a trick with hooves, and the results are what you might expect. The teeth-rattling, ear-splitting “moose music” drives off everyone within earshot, but when his equally-talented true love comes to sing along with his playing, it is enough to set off volcanoes. We like to accompany this book with a goofy version of Flop-Eared Mule, complete with out-of-tune banjo.

We love to include the audience as much as possible, and among the sing-along opportunities is our presentation of Anne Isaacs’s original tall tale Swamp Angel — which actually includes a tiny image of a fiddler amongst the illustrations by Paul O. Zelinski! We pair this book up with the rowdy Old Joe Clark.


We try to vary the fiddle tunes, so that we have presented musical forms — waltzes, reels, and jigs — as well as a good representation of various traditions. Here, we feature Budge Wilson’s A Fiddle for Angus as we present a French-Canadien selection: Saint Anne’s Reel — complete with clogging! Budge included the beautiful Song for the Mira in her book, a love song to a river, and we are working on an arrangement of the song to include in the program, per Ms Wilson’s request.

We always end the program with Alys Burgard’s Flying Feet, the story of the time a tiny Irish village seeks a dance teacher. When two excellent dancers both arrive to apply for the job, the only solution is a dance competition, right? Right! We have learned that if we stand up for this tune, everyone does, and we all dance to Irish Washerwoman.


After the program, we always take a few minutes to discuss the instruments with the kids.

Old Dogs, New Tricks?

I work in the library milieu.  The statement still conjures the stereotypical imagery: large rooms, countless books, narrow aisles between the shelves, the soft sounds of turning pages, and the stern warning glares from the bespectacled matron at the huge wooden desk.  Enter, if you dare.

Oh, how welcoming!  And we wonder why it’s so hard to encourage visitors to our dusty halls, do we?  Perhaps we have Hollywood and television to thank for this throwback image; Nic Cage did his best, but it’s Marian the Librarian who leaps to mind when the subject of librarians and/or libraries comes up.

The reality is always so different, but to make this discovery bridges must be built between libraries and schools, between libraries and businesses, between libraries and communities, and — most importantly these days — between libraries and the virtual world.

We’ve been here right along, thanks to online catalogs and databases, but these are passive presences.  We put them up and leave them to be found, explored, used, and forgotten, with the mistaken assumption that a few pretty colors or clever arrangements of words will suffice.  Even adding new and marvelous portals from our sites to other databases of vast knowledge and resources quietly awaits discovery rather than announcing itself.   We’re just too used to being quiet in the library!

So, the new trick is to find a voice, here in the virtually silent virtual reality.  Enter the world, learn the language, and find our new way into the old job of providing information.  Some trick.

Book Review: Megan Whalen Turner’s Attolia Trilogy

Some of the best writers today can be found in the Young Adult (YA) section of the library or bookstore.  Be they horror, humor, or fantasy stories, the books these YA writers create tend to grab the reader’s interest before the end of the first page and maintain a pace that keeps them engaged.  The YA readers include  “tweens” with advanced reading skills and teens with hundreds of competing interests.  They are the hardest reading audience to target because reading competes with sports, hormones, and the endless social dramas of daily life.  It’s a tough audience, and it requires bold authors.

One of the finest examples of such an author is Megan Whalen Turner.

Whalen’s debut novel, The Thief, published 1996, promptly earned a well-deserved Newbery Honor award.  The Thief is a fantasy novel: the setting is similar-to but not our own, with new mythologies, new landscapes, and an interesting blend of ancient Greece and Medieval Europe technologies.  Told in first-person narrative, it is the story of a braggart thief sprung from prison to steal an item that has not been seen in 500 years.  He has limited options: travel with the Magus on this dubious mission or rot in prison.  No run-of-the-mill heroic quest, story is populated with characters of the finest portrayal, both honorable and despicable, and all capable of transformation over the course of events.  I read the book in a single sitting, savoring every word, and desperately hunting for more by this author.  Alas, there was nothing else back then but her short fiction collection.  I had to cultivate patience.

Four years elapsed — four years!  But those were four years of amazing maturation for Turner’s writing.  The Queen of Attolia hit the shelves in 2000, and proved to be no mere sequel.  No longer told in the first person, the story explores the world of The Thief, introducing new characters alongside those we remember from the first book, all older, wiser, and perhaps more tragic.  We learned the countries of Turner’s world in her first novel, but now we travel more widely, and interact more with the citizens.  Queen is significantly more intense and thought-provoking, and I deeply cared about the outcome of events.

Six years later — 2006 — Turner did it again:  The King of Attolia arrived, with stunning cover art and something fresh and new in store!  In King, Turner does not simply bring back familiar characters from the first two books, she fleshes them out and explores the interrelationships with dramatic results.  This is no stale trilogy; there is no “formula” to this storyline.  Turner allows her characters to undergo changes many authors would never consider — never dare — and in doing so she leaves them free to portray a kaleidoscope of human behaviors and the full spectrum of emotions.

All three books are excellent reading: I purchased all three of them, twice, in hardcover.  Paperbacks would wear out too easily, as these stories are glorious adventures, even on repeat readings, and they will never gather dust on my shelves.

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