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Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud

WHISKEY KILLS by Lolli Powell

Fun follow-up to The Body on the Barstool. A very satisfying way to spend some hours being entertained.

I will note one subplot bothered me: The evangelist megachurch founders are way too caricature for me, and I'm as anti-christian as it's possible to be. All's well that ends well, I suppose, but their twirling-mustachio "I'll get you, my pretty" OTT evillenesse detracted from my otherwise spotless love for the story.

Book NINE! And still I read...nay devour...them as they appear.

An Argumentation of Historians - Jodi Taylor

It's Book Nine in a series. If you're still reading reviews, pull the trigger already! Start at book one, Just One Damned Thing After Another, and work your way through the books. You will experience:


and that's just for the perpetratrix of the series.

All while laughing yourself sore. And note please that should you not be amused by the authorial voice, stop at once. Do not attempt to read further. You will do irreparable harm to your clearly already overloaded pucker-and-purse circuits.

Being kind. It was her first time.

Fallen Into the Pit - Ellis Peters

Rating: 3.25* of five


Not precisely as expected. The first murder, one which I'd been *panting* after happening since the instant I met the Kraut Eddie Haskell character who is, disappointingly, not boiled in oil after being flayed alive and rolled in finely ground salt, was but the first salvo in war.


The War. Mm, yeah, best to put this into its time and place. England in 1951 was still under rationing. The scars of German bombing were everywhere, and the shift from staunchly capitalist to resolutely socialist government had not yet taken hold. The veterans of the fighting were, then as now, seen off with a wave and a pusillanimous "good luck!" from their erstwhile "superiors."


One of those veterans figures in the book as suspect, as well as one point on a love triangle, and strangely enough the schoolmaster-cum-confidant to the peculiarly prominent son of the nominal sleuth. He's got PTSD, as we'd now call it, after half a decade of being a murder machine in order to survive in the wilds of Croatia. And the second murder, of his love-rival, cements his place in the town's mind as The Killer.


But the sleuths? Not so sure. Neither father nor son Felse is at all convinced of Doolally Veteran Dude's desire to murder either victim. Son goes on an extended...more on this anon...search for physical evidence while Father does...does...um. Yeah.


Anyway, the two Felse men end up on the same track in the end and they discover the real murderer's identity due to the same strangely silent clue. They arrive in the same place at the same time, luckily, and they jointly score one for the forces of Right and Justice. But they do so in very different ways, and we only see Son's PoV! What?!


So this is why I'm not giving the book four or more stars. Policeman Felse is largely Father Felse in this book. He's not absent, he's just in a secondary crime-solving position, and that's not quite as satisfying as one might have imagined it to be when plotting out the book, Mme Pargeter/Peters (deceased). Oh, and that third murder? Not quite so sure it was well handled plot and position-wise.


But it was your first mystery, so I shall be kind and not fling it against the wall with panther-screeches of outraged fury.


Cockfighter - Charles Willeford

I have absolutely no idea how this book and its movie came back to the surface of my mind. I watched the film in 1975, I think, and I'm sure it was with Paul the film student. (He was also a drunk, and to date the only lover I've ever had that I allowed to hit me.)


Come to think on it, he's also the source of one of my most enduring pleasures, that of watching films whose books I've read or plan to read, and of making fantasy films of the books I read that haven't got films. Thanks, Paul, for growing me a spine and for giving me that deeply satisfying fantasy life. (He died in 1986, so this is more in the nature of valediction than praise.)


Anyway...I recommend the book to men because it's about us at our most male and least woman-centered. It's brutal and tough and awful. It's a clarion call to the smarter ones of us to look at what's actually going on in our heads and fucking stop it already. Not because women don't like us for what they've done to us, but because hurting ourselves is just damned stupid. The cult of macho is a male reaction to rejection and judgment, as Willeford presents it; this being what I've observed, it had me nodding along as I read the book.

Where the film falls down, I think, is in the nature of the storytelling medium. On its surface, this film's about how a man decides not to live with a woman but to sell every-damn-thing he owns and double down on the world of cockfighting. Ultimately this works out, in the sense that his cock wins the championship.


Not one single human female would watch this movie and think, "oh that was fun." The image of women in it is as emasculating damaging emotional black holes. Yeah, great date-night flick, eh what? And men come off as damnfool eedjits without a lick of sense. That both these things are true doesn't make them any easier to swallow. And on film, there are lost nuances because actors speaking lines aren't readers absorbing language use on multiple levels. So it's no wonder to me that this film tanked.


But it's a misunderstood work of art, Cockfighter is. Its darkest moments and grimmest interpretations are all true and accurate. That's intentional on Willeford's part, based on the entirety of his ouevre. (Go here to read a really, really interesting academic take on Willeford as writer and man manqué.) The levels and ideas that this brutal, cruel, emotionally stopped body of work contains are rewarding to unpick and enjoyable to contemplate.


For Y chromosome bearers.


Today is both Easter and April Fool's Day, which I find humorous and apt. Out of some 70 reads this quarter, I didn't find something I thought was even a candidate for my annual 6-stars-of-five read. Lots of MM romantic stuff this quarter due to 1) my Young Gentleman Caller being generous enough to give me lots of Kindlebooks and b) my unwillingness to stay in this reality for any length of time. Fortunately the YGC is still searching for clues about what this whole I-want-men thing is all about and wants to read and discuss everything we can find. Given the gap in our experience levels, he's chosen to turbocharge his flight into the future by asking lots of questions and listening to the answers. This is the most fun I've ever had with a young man.

SFFH reading also progresseth apace. Space is the place, alright. I read all the source stories for the new anthology series PKD's Electric Dreams on Prime, which I liked. The stories were heavily adapted and, in the original form, were often pretty close to unreadable because they were so dated. But Isa Dick Hackett, youngest of the great man's daughters and producer of the series, worked alchemy on her father's ideas and made them fresh again. She also toppled one of the industry's sexual harassers. Chip off the ol' block. The Netflix series Altered Carbon was a lot of fun, and a re-read of the book left me awed afresh by Morgan's twisty brain in action. Artemis was a bitter, bitter disappointment. Jazz felt unpleasantly boyish to me.

I began emptying an old bin full of disintegrating paperbacks by choosing some of the ancients that had been adapted into movies. Often the books were...um...not great and the movies were...um...seriously not great. I'm staring at you, Sangaree. Interesting how no one called this one out for brownwashing a previously white savior into a halfbreed Spaniard...in GEORGIA! In the Revolutionary period when Florida was SPANISH! ::eyeroll::

Plenty of Pearl-Ruled pablum. I record the ones that piss me off. The boringboringboring ones I ignore. In a world where anyone can self-publish dreck why are publishers still doing it? And I came to the realization that Seanan McGuire and I are chemistry-challenged when I **HATED** Rosemary and Rue so much that I was ready to heave my Kindle at the wall. Luckily, the YGC was here and caught it. It's my fourth try at one of hers and I have never made it even halfway through one. Feed...gag...was the all-time record-holding worst McGuire read. I threw the tree book away.

Picture books and me have had a great year so far. Allen Say's biographical Silent Days, Silent Dreams was a revelation, and his prior autobiographical works of being a young Japanese immigrant to California barely post-World War II were just as gorgeous and moving. Tom Gauld continues to delight and amuse. The genre will never be my first choice but I am slowly shedding my long-held disdain for comic books and kiddielit.

The world lost one of its under-recognized leaders. Ursula K. Le Guin died at 88. I read a collection of her blog entries, No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters and was most poignantly moved by it. I will bow to none in my appreciation for literature's educational possibilities. I'm the offspring (Dr. Freud, please consult on a slip: I typed "oddspring" since "d" is next to "f" on my keyboard and stared at it for a while considering leaving it) of lunatic-fringe rightwingnuts. LeGuin's fantasy stories started me down the path of questioning WHY the world was going to hell, and reaching the conclusion that it was already hell for anyone who doesn't look like me. Basic human decency led to rejecting more and more of the underpinnings of the world as it is in no small part because of UKL's didactic art. She made me. I miss her.

Lastly, politics. I hate 45 and his kakistocracy of deplorables. Nothing is better in the US today than it was on 8 November 2016, a day that shall live in infamy. Since this is inarguably true to people with IQs in the positive range, it need not be discussed. How this fucking nightmare began is worthy of discussion and I read several books alleging to probe this from different angles. I came away more depressed. The Democrats are spineless wussies who deserve to lose, but the alternative is government by the least, the last, the most unworthy and embarrassing ammosexuals in the country. So read On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century and at least learn what the vile Russian agents controlling what was once a sovereign government, flawed but ours, have in mind for you. Then try to sleep.

90 years on, Miss Silver still amuses

Grey Mask - Patricia Wentworth

Rating: 3* of five In the 90 years since this was written, I think its central premise...that people will do anything to avoid embarrassment...has proved an evergreen turned inside out. Reality TV takes everyone's dirtiest and smelliest laundry public. The characters in this book would have expired in smallish heaps of the honour-vapours at their great-grandchildren's idea of entertainment. Miss Silver is clearly carrying the pertussis bacterium. Her cough is ever-present. I remember from reading these books in the 1980s how irritating I found it. The identity of Grey Mask was pretty obvious to me from the first time they appear in mufti, so to speak. One amusing piece of retrospective theater is enough to make my day, and it takes place in the very first scene. There are over 30 of these little marvies. They are all, au fond, the same book. Either you like that book or you don't. Don't read this one and think, "oh well, maybe the others are better" because they really aren't. I like them. They're quiet and peaceful little murder plots for silly and quite overblown stakes. Miss Silver is more of a sleuth than Marple ever was, in that she sallies forth in her colourless shmattes and her mouse-fur coloured hair and those blah gray eyes that see every-goddamned-thing and doesn't seem to rely as much on chitter-chatter from every ladies' maid in 1920s London. Try one. If it's not to your taste, well it didn't cost much.

Book 7...7!...and I'm still eagerly reading

Maelstrom - Jordan L. Hawk




Here's an amazing fact for y'all. I hate the c-a-t in this series because, well, it's a c-a-t. In point of fact the presence of a c-a-t in a book as a suitable companion for a male human is grounds for a one-star deduction from the five total a book can earn. And yet the sharp-eyed habitué of these precincts will note that this book has a five-star rating! Has His Growling Curmudgeonliness softened in his disdain and disgust for Felis catus?!


Don't register for those classes in the aerodynamics of pork just yet, pigs ain't a-flyin'.


While the c-a-t is prominent in this book and is even presented as capable of performing actions not directly beneficial to itself (which is how we know we're reading a novel), the main focus of this book is on a subject near and dear to my heart: Hating your siblings and your parents, while acknowledging their ability to throttle back their intrinsic evil enough to perform actions that, when squinted at from a far enough distance and lit exactly perfectly, can be construed by an unbiased observer as not entirely destructive. Whyborne's selfish and self-centered father has lost his wife, his adored elder son, and both his daughters; it's no surprise that the poor chump realizes he'd best mend fences with his remaining son, faggot or no. Also no surprise is the said son's unwillingness to let go of his grudge against the old bastard.


And here's where that star comes from. This plot arc has developed over the course of the entire series. It's a difficult task to keep a reader involved in an arc over more than one book without making frequently eyerollingly hamfisted attempts to wedge the damn thing into stories better off without it. Author Hawk has magical fingers. This series doesn't suffer from the dreaded hamfistedness. The presence of Whyborne's father is always plausible or he's left out. While he's there, he acts in character. Even when it's obvious to the reader he's doing his level best to make it up to Whyborne, the man is his abrasive and selfish self. No miracles are adduced. Just as we see the attempts as well as the selfishness, Whyborne does not.


Griffin, however, does, and he tries to offer his dearly beloved a perspective not wholly hostile to Whyborne père. The offer is rebuffed with brusqueness, even a scoche of hurt feelings. Whyborne begins to fear that his beloved husband has been bought off by the sudden generosity his father has shown Griffin. It's even enabled Griffin to purchase a motor car! A (period appropriate) Curved Dash Oldsmobile, no less.

Is that not the most amazing thing! It is in Widdershins, Massachusetts, I can promise you. Griffin is almost bursting with eagerness to take Whyborne for a ride!


In the car, you dirty-minded dregs. In the car.


So Whyborne's fears for Griffin's loyalty are not unfounded; plus he now has to ride in a motor car or risk hurting his dearly beloved's feelings. So into the damned thing he climbs (greater love hath no fuddy-duddy), thence to be sped at a blistering pace (almost twenty miles an hour!) hither, thither, and yon. Worse yet, Christine and her intended groom Iskander the half-Egyptian are enraptured by the damn thing as well. Has Whyborne père cast his net so wide as to deprive his son of all support and succor? The rotter! Then, if that isn't enough to frame Whyborne père in the most villainous light imaginable, he has the audacity to all-but-demand his son visit the evildoer of his childhood, formerly fair-haired boy Stanford, in the comfy sanitorium where he's confined in lieu of a prison cell (greatly to Whyborne's disgruntlement) for the crime of murdering various and sundry people including their mutual sister.


In acceding to his father's barely-not-a-demand to visit Stanford, Whyborne acts like a mulish, unforgiving, spiteful brat towards Stanford as the latter brandishes sweet words and requests for reconciliation. How petty, how small-souled of him, no? Even Griffin advocates for peace! Griffin!! The man was nearly sacrificed to the Elder Gods by Whyborne père and then nearly blown away by Stanford's (badly aimed, thank goodness) gun! Whyborne's feelings of isolation make sense.


I am fully aware of his faulty reasoning and his sense of injustice being perpetrated on him and his pettish whining all from the inside. I see it in myself when dealing with my own "family." (I hasten to add that my siblings have never aimed firearms at anyone nor are they, to the best of my knowledge, sharktoothed half-fish.) So Author Hawk was already singin' my song. The way the family drama and the story drama each resolve in step with the other felt natural, inevitable to me. The fact that Whyborne's loving husband and his best friend both support him emotionally as well as nudge him towards a more charitable view of his intimate enemies is a great enrichment of the emotional facet of the series. It's one reason I keep reading the books. By now most series stories are thin, floppy things. Not Whyborne & Griffin. The world the men occupy is different from our own but keeps adding layers and nuances and even, just like life, harks back to remembered events both fun and not so much.


As this installment of the loving, exciting lives of Whyborne & Griffin approaches its end, there is a chapter...57 to be precise...that will profoundly expand your appreciation for Author Hawk's chops, and will most likely move you as well. For that alone I will read the other two books already out in the series. But I do so in the hope that there will be others to come. It's rare that I feel a desire to continue a series to this length. I feel a strong need to finish what's out before I being the tedious process of waiting for more.


Trigger warning to the squeamishly heterosexual. Depictions of loving and consensual but still filthy-pig-dirty sex exist in here, just like they do in life; avoid if that's disagreeable to you. Also start at the beginning or you'll be utterly at sea reading the later books.

YA steampunk urban fantasy series makes good in volume 1! Amazing

The Invisible Library - Genevieve Cogman

Rating: 4* of five--I really hate the text editing here. I'd forgotten how emailish it is.

I want to be a Librarian.
The atmosphere of the place soothed her automatically; the rich lantern lights, the sheer scent of paper and leather, and the fact that everywhere she looked, there were books, books, beautiful books.
She was a Librarian, and the deepest, most fundamental part of her life involved a love of books. Right now, she wanted nothing more than to shut the rest of the world out and have nothing to worry about except the next page of whatever she was reading...
And then they were inside, and out of the wind, and surrounded by comforting walls and walls of books. The rich, delightful smell of old paper, leather and ink permeated the place, washing away the pettier odours of blood and oil and smog.
Need I say more?
A high level of chaos would mean that they could expect to meet the Fae, creatures of chaos and magic, who were able to take form and cause disorder on such a corrupted world. And that was never good news.
A Librarian’s mission to seek out books for the Library developed, after a few years, into an urge to find out everything that was going on around one. It wasn’t even a personal curiosity. It was a simple, impersonal, uncontrollable need to know. One came to terms with it.
And if she’d been able to choose her options a few hours ago, being trapped in a dead vampire’s private study with an angry Fae would not have been one of them.
Irene sighed. “So we have an incredibly glamorous female cat burglar who slinks around in a black leather cat-suit, who kills vampires in her spare time?"

Now. Are you sold? If not, skip it and regret nothing. The rest of us who aren't dead-souled potato heads will be happily reading the five extant volumes for the sheer verve with which Author Cogman lobs twists at us.

For series fans, yes; for newb, oh HELL no

The Purloined Poodle - Kevin Hearne, Galen Dara

If you already like the Iron Druid series and have read them all, this will make a pleasant diversion from the tedium of waiting for more. It's nice to have a little more perspective on some magical elements of the series universe. Oberon's a hoot. But, like <I>The Lone Gunmen</i> spinoff of <I>The X-Files</i> in the 1990s, it's not likely to make fans out of newbs or win fallen-away fans back.

I got the eARC from NetGalley ages and ages ago and finally finished the read after more than a year of neglect. In fact I was surprised to find it on my Kindle...and I guess that's everything you need to know right there.

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century - Timothy Snyder

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century - Timothy Snyder 

Rating: 5* of five


Not for its perfection of style but for its perfection of wisdom and its amazing timeliness. As I write this on 24 March 2018, I saw the face of our future president in Emma Gonzalez as she stood silent, focused, determined, at a march made by young people to demand their lives be protected from ammosexual assholes. She spoke for six minutes and twenty seconds in total, the same amount of time that it took one piece of shit human being to slaughter seventeen of her classmates.


I believe that her speech...the few words, the long silence...will be the spark of the youth revolution our country so very badly needs. I am hopeful that Emma Gonzalez will be, by her very adamantine sense of self and her charismatic gravitas, the voice that alerts her compatriots to Author Snyder's clarion call to clarity:
The politics of inevitability is a self-induced intellectual coma.

The most unbelievably high stakes are at risk in the November 2018 elections. Buy this book not for yourself but for your hopes of a reasonably happy future for the United States of America, buy it in quantity and give it to everyone you know and/or can find who is under 25, and talk to them about why you're giving them this short, clear, concise, and urgently necessary book.


Your life, my life, the life of a truly great nation, depends on them showing up at the ballot box on 6 November 2018. This is neither hyperbole nor alarmism. It is simply the truth. Looking away from the horrors of the current kakistocracy's rise to any position of power higher than hall monitor at the local middle school will only ensure the brutal and vicious agenda of these lowlife scumbags and their horrifying cadres of disgustingly venal and/or stupid supporters will succeed.

TANKA & ME a lyrical, accessible poetry collection by Kaethe Schwehn

Tanka & Me: Poems (Mineral Point Poetry Series) (Volume 1) - Kaethe Schwehn, Kiki Petrosino
New #review! TANKA & ME is live today at Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud.
From Brain Mill Press, this collection of lyrical, accessible poetry is perfect for Friday Reads. Parents of sons strongly encouraged to give 'em this Feminist Fiction to encourage empathy and identification with The Other.

A novel for women that men *NEED* to read

The Atomic Weight of Love: A Novel - Elizabeth J. Church
New review live now! THE ATOMIC WEIGHT OF LOVE This is my 4-star warble of pleasure to Author Elizabeth J. Church and Algonquin Books! Bravo to both for finally-at-last blowing the horrible taste of "The Awakening" from my mental palate. It's a beautiful novel written for women, but men need to read it. SERIOUSLY. An excellent take-down of unquestioned male privilege.

So, so, so gorgeous

— feeling amazing
Are You an Echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko - Misuzu Kaneko, Toshikado Hajiri, Sally Ito, David Jacobson, Michiko Tsuboi, Setsuo Yazaki

Rating: 5* of five


Whenever a package arrives from Chin Music Press, I know that everything else has to go to the Later pile. As always, I was *so* richly rewarded when I opened these covers.


This gorgeous and extremely touching sampler of Kaneko Misuzu's poetry is perfectly illustrated. It is introduced by a brief recounting of Kaneko's unhappy life. While I would most definitely want my grandkids to read the poetry, I'd want to read Kaneko's story to them, and make sure I was fully present to gauge their need for explanation and/or comfort as the tale unfolds.


Even if you have no kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, or strange kids you can borrow, buy this beautiful object for your coffee table. You will be the coolest kid on the block.

A moving and timely discussion of end-of-life medical care

— feeling angel
Hope for a Cool Pillow - Margaret Overton

Rating: 4.5* of five


My essay on the publishing house Outpost19 and Margaret Overton's deeply moving and supremely timely memoir is live at Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud: My Reading Life.


This slim book should, in a properly ordered world, ignite a nation-wide conversation about the events at the end of our lives. It is a wonderful book. 

What a terrific read!

— feeling amazing
Quiet Creature on the Corner - João Gilberto Noll, Adam Morris

My review of QUIET CREATURE ON THE CORNER by João Gilberto Noll is a disturbing & lovely tale of anomie published by Two Lines Press. It's the author's first English translation, done by the clearly very talented Adam Morris.


The book is on sale at the publisher's website for $6.95. It's so very worth that minimal price!

MY TALL HANDSOME, a collection of beautiful words making profound points about love, Love, and lovingkindness

— feeling baby
My Tall Handsome: Poems (Mineral Point Poetry Series) (Volume 4) - Emily Corwin, Kiki Petrosino

Rating: 4.5* of five


Don't kid yourselves, it's a big fat honkin' deal when I review a collection of poetry with almost five stars. I'm not a poetry-first kind of an old queen. It's really important to remember that when I say I would sit and listen to this poem cycle being read or (preferably) sung Lied-style to me.


I will seek this young woman's poetry out in future. Yes, you read that right: I'll go buy other books she writes with my very few United States dollars. Read my review, then go buy this collection, to see why you should too.