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review 2018-05-22 22:49
Harrowing, cathartic, satisfying
A Second Harvest - Eli Easton

Only two instances of the loathsome w-verb. Both gratuitous and unnecessary, of course.


An enormously resonant story for my elderly self. I knew and tricked with these men most of my life. Had one terrible relationship with one of them, a horrible, painful experience of being the agony and the release from it at the same time. He died of liver cancer after over two decades of alcohol abuse, and a few months later I moved to New York City.


So David's story, his wretchedness, moved me deeply. Christie's part I lived in reverse...after getting to Paradise I was a busy, busy boy for a few years. Over a decade, in fact, and I adored all but the last 18 months. When my life unravels, it does the job with verve and gusto. Anyway, Christie deciding to move to Auntie's place made perfect sense to me...I ran back to Austin...and his ultimate fate there mirrored my own, if mine was less painful.


I left Austin because, after one night of gay-barring, I was followed home by two tradies (google it) who'd been somewhat unsettlingly focused on me. The truck they drove had a gun rack.


It wasn't empty.


Nothing happened.


I don't care. I am never, ever again in all my life going to live in a place where guns are anything other than tightly regulated. I'm also deeply averse to going west of the Hudson or north of the Bronx. When home doesn't want you, it's not home, so here I stay.


This book made all the same feelings as I felt then come roaring back, strong as ever, nauseating as ever. The highest function of storytelling is catharsis, it's why myths are evergreen and stage/screen drama has such a tenacious hold on human psyches. Author Easton has, in each of her stories I've read, given me a safe catharsis, a world built to experience and survive the strong negative emotions parts of her tale evokes. It takes skill to do this well. It requires convincing your readers that this *is* a world, this space is in fact telling truths to your emotional core. That takes talent and courage, which Author Easton has and uses for our benefit.


And here I was looking for a light, fun read. Haw. Instead I got a deep and thorough dose of spiritual salts. And, mirabile dictu, was made to enjoy it.


Congratulations, Eli Easton, and to you readers not squicked out by gay men making love to each other, this is a fine and satisfying read.

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review 2018-05-13 01:18
More Golden Age goodness with a piquant modern edge
Lonesome Road - Patricia Wentworth

Much more modern in that Miss Silver is quite the force in moving the story. Much more Golden Age in that The Ladies are Ever So Ladylike and one silly chit of a slip of a girl gets all twisted up and confused by A Big Bad Man. Also irritating is the fact that it takes a man to sort out Miss Rachel Treherne, a quite redoubtable party until it comes to her ghastly family and their disgusting behavior.


Well, autres temps autres moeurs, don't you know, and in the end the right couples are coupled with the Big Baddie most satisfactorily served a comeuppance. If Miss Silver is ever silver screened, this entry in the series will be loaded with a lesbian subplot that is absolutely accurate...right there for anyone with ~2 eyes to see. Dunno that it'll make diddly squat difference. You either like this book or you don't, but forevermore don't read on because the final formula is fixed with this book and the next 25-plus don't vary it.


I also liked a lot that Miss Silver came to Miss Rachel Treherne's attention via Hilary Cunningham, née Carew. I don't recall if this little easter egg is repeated, but I hope so.

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review 2018-05-12 20:12
New soapy goodness in a series?!
The 13th Hex: A Hexworld Short Story - Jordan L. Hawk

A perfectly fine story. I like Rook a lot, but am less enamored of Dominic Kopecky. I just wanted a toe-dip into the world of the series before committing myself to it. This short tale was enough to allow me to get the sense of what Author Hawk was planning...a New York City imbued with magical energy that expresses itself via pseudoscientific means...to see if this could keep my soap-opera lovin' story-slurpin' soul from parching into dust. I mean, Whyborne & Griffin is only one more novel from being complete on my reader radar! I need sudsy sweet seriesness! Now!!


Three winks in under 40pp means one entire star off.

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review 2018-05-11 02:36
Blast off from the past
The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet - Eleanor Cameron

It's just not possible to recapture a read from 1969. I was not old enough to know or care about some of the science parts being really, really improbable...nay, impossible...as we had just been to the Moon and had recently landed a probe on Mars that put paid to even the dream of a Universe like the one Author Cameron created.


I loved revisiting Dave Topman and Chuck Masterson's flight to the impossible, tiny planet Basidium, all of 50,000 miles away. Their home-made rocket that traveled 25,000 miles an hour. Their bags od groceries to eat on the way there and back...two hours each way...two hours on Basidium, where they somehow spoke the language of the Mushroom People and solved a mystery that confounded the adult Mushroom People...the chicken that saved the day....


Nope, too old to get back there, but it was some good fun peeking back at the boyhood adventure that didn't have to make sense because what the hell actually does when you're eight or nine? It's starting to, but not quite yet does, blessedly.


I would give this to a six-year-old and read it with her. Maybe a slightly slow seven-year-old. No older than that, in today's world, and I'm not all the way sure it's even a good idea because gender roles and sex stereotyping are at the core of the story. So maybe, if like me you read it in your tinyhood, you'll smile and enjoy and keep out of reach of children.

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review 2018-05-10 14:02
It's not the way we do things now, but...
The Case Is Closed - Patricia Wentworth

Sexist, silly, and slow.


Trust in me all in all, or trust me not at all, folks, this offers the modern reader mysteries few of the pleasures we presently expect. The pace is killed dead as a rock by the documents the author plops right in the beginning, and later the documentary urge is revived right at the end. It's deadly dull because it goes on too long. It works to get dreary information fed to you, the reader, but wowee toledo does it bog the pace down.


The author relies quite heavily on coincidence as well as Death by Documents. The number of fortuitous encounters between Miss Hilary Carew and Mrs Mercer! Gracious goodness me, the way they practically bounce off each other like billiard balls you'd think England was some teeny-tiny little island or something! I live on a quite small barrier island off the south shore of a bigger island and I don't coincidentally run into people I absolutely *must* encounter above once a week. /sarcasm


The sexism is really surprising. Miss Hilary Carew wants her big, dashing Captain Henry Cunningham to Save Her from Them! This despite the fact that she does a damned good job of saving herself, thank you kindly, and Henry shows up only when muscle is genuinely required. Dishrag Mercer lives in terror of her abusive husband, who never lifts a finger against her just utters horrifying threats and brandishes a knife there's no evidence whatsoever that he knows how to use. When unwelcome guests invade her home, Mrs Marion Grey simply doesn't throw them out, she endures and endures and then finally, when Miss Hilary Carew her cousin as well as roommate arrives, she simply retires to her room in a State of Nerves. The lower-class women are dimwits and cry positive rivers of annoying, soppy tears. That sexism is there at all is the surprise, since none of the women really need the men to solve their problems. Miss Maud Hephzibah Silver least of all, of course.


And there's the other latter-day reader's lament. Where the hell does Miss Silver (casually dismissed for being a woman more than once) keep herself? She appears at convenient moments with convenient facts. Outside that, the twenty-first century reader's expectations of becoming intimate with our sleuth is an unmet need. We don't see Miss Silver do diddly in the way of detecting or even walking around, she just seems to use Floo Powder and apparates onto the scene of whatever action she can best bring to a screeching halt as she omnisciently moves the dramatis personae into the proper configuration for the ending to occur.


Since I've kvetched this little opus into the weeds, why did I give it three and a half stars? Because it's a surprisingly astute and subtle indictment of the annoying tropes it deploys. Miss Silver, Miss Carew and company aren't dishrags the way the poor women are. There are several quite formidable housekeepers and chambermaids. The latter is the one who asks the question that is at the heart of the (not terribly challenging) mystery. The author, a redoubtable soul in her own right, seems to me to be draping the fig-leaf of sexist silliness onto her competent women. She was sixty the year this book was published...1937...and seems to me to be sighing somewhat impatiently at the continued necessity to pretend that women are silly little chits without the ability to Think in their scatterbrains.


Happen I agree, Ma Wentworth.

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