Reviews Log

Captain's log of favourable ports and dangerous waters...

Our first editorial review by beta-reader, Ronald E. Yates - former foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune and Professor Emeritus of Journalism and Dean of the College of Media at the University of Illinois 

Writing, as any author will tell you, is an intensely personal endeavor. We scribblers pour heart and soul into the scenes and incidents we create or recreate from our own lives. That’s what makes good writing unfeigned and heartfelt and it’s what brings readers back to our work again and again.
What Siân Glírdan has compiled in her “Freebooter’s Fantasy Almanac”—a work she calls a “sort of real cyberspace memoir”—is a deeply personal examination of her life. She opens the shutters and windows to reveal “struggles with health, achievement, emotion and, most of all, dreams and imagination.”
This is not a linear narrative or memoir, but an effort peppered with original poetry, painful recollections of personal tragedy and suffering, and inspiring reminiscences of happiness and exhilaration. It is a book interleaved with both fantasy and reality—a challenging work that will carry the reader on a journey of discovery.
It takes courage to write like this because in doing so, Siân Glírdan has opened herself up to great scrutiny. No doubt the impetus for this work is as much catharsis for her as it is an unearthing of emotion for the reader.
The following passage I found especially revealing:
“In our inner life we are all essentially alone with our thoughts and feelings, although those can be expressed of course. Thoughts however are another matter. We are selective in what thoughts stay that way, unspoken, and which are communicated. In a way this exercise is for my own thoughts that I hold close and don’t necessarily speak them to anyone, but want to get them out there somehow. Therapy if you like, but not to a person as such. My stunted way of steering my own course ‘as fair and true’ as I can manage these days.” As a true Freebooter Siân Glírdan is taking us, as she says, “Into uncharted waters without a map of any real description, or even an idea of what to expect.”
Climb aboard for a cruise into an inspired sea of illusion and imagination, moored by authenticity and unremitting experience.

Ronald E. Yates

And another editorial review, literally from my editor, Sue Bridgwater! Sue was with me on the roleplaying forum I joined almost from the start and so the book brought back all kinds of poignant and hilarious memories. Here's what she has to has to say about it all...

Siân Glírdan’s compelling book is perhaps best described as a ‘Miscellany.’ This is an old-fashioned description of a collection of pieces in different formats, styles, tones and moods, brought together between the same covers. This doesn’t mean in any way that the book itself is old-fashioned, or that it lacks a common theme and cohesion – it’s shot through with the personal and the literary aspects of Siân’s life and experience. Her writing skills are showcased in the various tales, poems and autobiographical sections of the work. She can make you laugh and make you cry, and does both repeatedly throughout this book. Don’t read it without a large pocket-handkerchief or a box of tissues. It’s commonly said of the kind of autobiographical writing Siân includes here, that it’s ‘brave.’ To me that side of the book goes beyond brave, and into a kind of self-revelation that can only speak of hope, courage and tenacity to her readers. It takes strength and trust to open your experience up to public scrutiny in this way. Siân’s poems are lyrically beautiful and again pierce to the heart of human sorrows and joys. Overall, what she gives us here is the story of the growth in power and understanding, not only of a writer, but of a human soul. I urge you not to miss this book. 
Sue Bridgwater 
And the first official Amazon one...

Fighting for Sanity in a Fantasy World
As the author, Sian Glirdan writes, "This is poetry, wrapped in fantasy within a memoir . . . a true tale that might well apply to many fantasy fans and gamers who can't be bothered with keeping their realities separated from their more livid imaginings." It is so much deeper than this. I found this book to be a tale of the tortured soul of a woman attempting to redefine herself by acting out in real cyberspace fantasy computer sites; among others doing the same thing----perhaps for similar reasons, perhaps not.
Sian, Welsh for Jan, is the creation of Jan Hawke, who also creates Sian's creation, the lovely elf, Janowich. By now you may be confused yet fascinated but hang onto this story for it's just the beginning of an amazing account. A tale that will make you smile and break your heart, often at the same time.
Basically, both Sian and Jano are the alter egos of Jan Hawke who discovers after fruitless attempts at overcoming depression through conventional therapy and RX drugs, that using fantasy might be the answer to her problems. This book is not written in the usual memoir style. It's a story told in segments, sometimes jumping from past to present time and back again. Sian uses poetry intertwined throughout the book which is often exquisite, always interesting, and appears to delve deeper into her inner self than the fantasy world in which she interacts. Some poems are whimsical, some so full of raw, deep emotion that the reader cannot help but be drawn into the plight of this brave woman's fight for sanity and peace of mind.
'A Freebooter's Fantasy Almanac," is an eclectic fascinating insight into a woman's private hell, sharing her attempts to latch the doors to that hell and open the windows to a new reality, a new life. And finally after years of battle, lay down her weapons and enjoy newly found happiness and peace. Can she do it? Jano, the elf, thinks she can but Sian Glirdan, the author, is not so sure.
Micki Peluso; author of . . . And the Whippoorwill sang

A powerfully beautiful memoir... 
Few books have touched me as this one has. The writing is raw, painfully honest, and because of that, extraordinarily beautiful. The poetry, interspersed throughout the narrative, is simply stunning. It left me speechless with its powerful images of love broken, hope buried, but dreams resurrected.
This is a book to read with reverence and with a heart wide open. As for me, I walked slowly through its pages, because the Freebooter’s Fantasy Almanac took me into the heart of a writer who has experienced the pulse of life at its weakest and at its glory. Powerful! 
Gwen Plano 

"Chances are I’ll listen patiently to anyone who can tell me why”
This is a brave and very honest book, written by a writer carried along - I felt - on a flood of feeling, using all the words that came to her to describe how fantasy has helped her deal with a reality that threatened to destroy her. Therein lies its great strength but also for me its weakness: in that while the courage and honesty of the author is never in question, the quality of the writing is uneven. The book as a whole needs a good edit, which I’m sure the author herself is capable of giving it, were she to recollect the emotion in tranquillity, put it to one side and concentrate purely on the mechanics of the writing.
Some of her poetry is very successful - heartfelt and powerfully written - but some of it has been pulled out of shape by her attempt to constrict it within a rhyme scheme or to follow a form which I’m afraid did her no favours. Too many of her prose sentences ramble with some of them far too long (up to 60 words), containing on occasion two subordinate clauses beginning with ‘as’, one after the other. I also found myself tripping over typos, which is another indication that the book hasn’t been edited with her usual care. None of that was present in 'Milele Safari', which I have also reviewed and had no problem awarding five stars.
All in all, I wanted to give this book six stars for its honesty, perceptiveness and generosity, but in its current state only three stars for the quality of the writing. That dichotomy almost prevented me from reviewing it at all; but I’ve done so because I think it is potentially a great and rare book, and with a good edit it would shine out on all fronts! It was obviously a cathartic experience for Jan to compile and present this account of how she dealt with her depression and difficulties, and it seems churlish in that context to be picky about the quality of some of the writing. However, I have enough respect for her as a writer and as a person to think that she would want me to be honest about that side of it – because I so want all her books to be as good as she is capable of making them.
Peace Seeker

I have read many fantasy books dealing with Elves, and such creatures of the underworld, that this book deals with. But here is the difference. The author first started by telling us that the story is about her own fantasy experiences with the events of the underworld, that in fact she is Jano, the main character of the story. That, set the story wide open for me.
First of all, I could not believe how far and well read the authors is of the fantasy world. How the author has been able to weave a story, drawing from this wide knowledge of the type that is not only different but unique. At the beginning, I was at a loss how to read this story, as a story or as a lesson in freebooting. I could see this style again at work in her essay on, “A Day in the life of a writer.”
The section, “About the Author,” shed more light on the background of the names of the characters in the story. I don’t know whether Jano’s life, her birth, death of her youngest brother, and especially her parting ways with Mirian was repeated, verbatim on purpose. Or whether the part dealing with Baramon and Barathon, which was also repeated back to back was done on purpose. This is because, I like my stories to leave me the chance to be creatively involved.
I admired the fact that the fantasy life of the author did not replicate the author’s real life. In real life, the author suffered, or should we say, endured an unhappy marriage, while in fantasy life, Jano, finally found love in Silen.
This narration interspersed with poetry, or vice versa, is a bold testimony of the creative mind of the author. The book is a powerful collection of fantasy experiences of this author, a book worthy of reading and studying.
Joy Nwosu Lo-Bamijoko

An Engaging Memoir
The subtitle of the book tells a great deal about what you will find when you read it. “A sort of actual cyberspace memoir,” are the words that open the reader to exactly what is going on between the covers. There is the talk of Elves and fantasy but make no mistake. This book is a true memoir told in an engaging way and includes pain, suffering, hope and joy. The reader through some techniques of the writer does not have to wade through the usual agony of a suffering storyteller. Sian Glirdan is the Nom de Plume of Jan Hawke and one of two of her alter egos. The author has used these alter egos as well as engaging and beautiful poetry to tell her story as if she is on her feet in front of a sellout theater crowd.
Yes, there is entertainment as well as touching scenes that if laid out in real terms would have the audience sobbing. This book is no tear jerking, poor me memoir. This book is an honest depiction of the growing process of one who has suffered from depression, health issues, and the loss of love. The story, with the help of the alter egos and very touching poetry, is told with an honesty and literary quality that will surprise the reader.
The description of the loss of love is the best I have read. Ms. Hawke spared none of the detail but left the reader with some hope that even with lost love two people can be reasonably happy keeping those pieces of their relationship that worked.
The final payback in this story is that the reader comes away with the idea that because of laying out her life to us, Ms. Hawke is at peace. There is lots of reward in believing this to be true as Ms. Hawke did an excellent job writing is such a way as to make the reader care how she is doing.
Finally, the book gives real information on some of the elements of the fantasy world which I found very informative.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a story that will add measurably to the knowledge of human nature and the fantasy world.

John W Howell

Better for Reading This
Sometimes when you finish a book you realize the scope of the work makes for an impossible summary. I think on some level this narrative is something most can connect with in some way. But, don't let this comment water down the depth and uniqueness of the author's life.
The book mostly centers around Jano, an elvin character created by the author. Jano's development is desribed as a, “rediscovery”. From the reading I'd even go so far as to say Jano provided a “rebirth”. Jano counters the suffering going on in real life. That suffering is a depressed state in which the author, years ago, compromised herself and learned to go through the motions of daily life as an emotionless robot in an effort to cope. Living like this is the choice many take, especially when there seems to be no alternative. I'd argue when there seems to be no alternative, there isn't one. But when life lacks vibrancy and energy, and there is nowhere in which to belong, eventually one becomes a cold, breathless statue.
So Jano really is more than escape from reality. She offers a reason for life because she offers a place to breathe. Limited at first, Jano is able to slowly venture out in ways the author is not. Perhaps the most hope-filled, romantic moment comes when a real person (through the distance of cyberspace) enters. He opens a door to passion and life she had forgotten existed.
Incidentally, the poetry that is scattered throughout is among the best I've read. One line in particular, after reading the entire context, held such meaning to me:“....that I can only give empathy where once a passion burned.”
This autobiographical book is shamelessly intimate, and filled me with intrigue all the way through. Because many parts of it made me feel like I was glancing at my own reflection of years past, I am a better person for reading it. 
Robert Kimbrell 

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