Review: EMPIRE OF PAIN: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe (2021)

Genre: Adult Historical Nonfiction
Year Release: 2021
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: antisemitism, suicide, drug abuse, drug dependence, overdose, homophobia

One of my hyperfixations is the opioid abuse epidemic. My other is marketing (in fact, I have a degree and it’s my current profession). Patrick Radden Keefe’s history of the Sackler family, which brought to market Valium and OxyContin, covers the full spectrum of rich people nonsense, aggressive marketing which still informs the industry today, and one of the tragedies that has taken million lives over the past several decades.

Fascinating and induced many screams and clutching-the-side-of-my-face, this is a must-read for anyone who wants a more biographical account of how one of the most addictive painkillers became so widely (ab)used and the motions trying to bring the family to task.

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ARC Review: SHE WHO BECAME THE SUN (The Radiant Emperor #1) by Shelley Parker-Chan (2021)

Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: July 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books | Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read a NetGalley eARC from the publisher
Content warning: Famine, poverty, flaying, plague, war, queerphobia, misogyny, immolation, dismemberment

A girl’s family dies in a famine-stricken village at the hands of despair and bandits. Instead of succumbing to her nothing fate, so takes on her brother’s name, Zhu Chongba, and takes on his destiny of greatness. She joins a monastery, gets enlisted in the army, and seeks greatness at every turn. On the opposite side of war, there is Ouyang, the eunuch general, whose everything was taken from him by the family he serves.

My official review is one long joyous screech of hype. This book has so many things I love, such as character archetypes and depictions of betrayal. The balance between political intrigue and epic battles is masterful, as are the parallels between Ouyang and Zhu.

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ARC Review: THE BURNING DAY AND OTHER STRANGE STORIES by Charles Payseur (2021)

Genre: Adult Speculative Fiction Short Story Collection
Year Release: July 2021
Buy Links: Unabridged Books | Amazon

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an ARC from the author

Short story writer Charles Payseur is prolific in both his reviews and his short story career. This collection is a compact, but mighty sample. There is something for everyone, from stories taking place down on earth, to space exploration, to tales about black holes and space ships full of cats.

They’re queer, they’re speculative, with lovely imagery and relationships that feel all-too human throughout. Some stories are also chilling, in more ways than one. There is a breadth here of speculative experience that is a wonder to behold.

Author Charles Payseur will be featured as this blog’s next interview guest on July 18th, 2021.

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ARC Review: A PSALM FOR THE WILD-BUILT (Monk & Robot #1) by Becky Chambers (2021)

Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Year Release: July 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books | Audiobook

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an ARC from the publisher
Content warning: Welts, pus, blisters

Centuries ago, the robots walked off their jobs and let the wilds take over. In the current day, Sibling Dex decides they’ve had enough of their duties and decides to fuck off into the wilderness to become a tea monk. After several years, they set off on the road and run into a robot named Mosscap. The two begin a strange friendship built on attempts at understanding that leads to deep conversations about identity, purpose, and the meaning of life.

Kind, philosophical, and full of awareness, this book reads like drinking a cup of tea for self-care.

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Review: HYPERBOLE AND A HALF: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh (2013)

Genre: Non-fiction Graphic Novel
Year Release: 2013
Source: Borrowed from Friends

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content warning: use of the “r” slur to refer to the diminished intelligence of a dog

I had read some of Allie Brosh’s blog posts around a decade ago, so this blog-in-novel form has been on my radar for almost a decade. My friends lent me a bunch of things and I’m in the process of reading them all before I leave for Texas at the end of the month.

This frank and funny collection of stories and anecdotes made for quick, easy reading, and I’m definitely looking forward to the recently-released sequel.

The art is not “beautiful” in any sense of the word. But the quirky illustrations and hand-written dialogues are charming. The long form writing cannot be replaced by the images nor do the images serve as a kind of caption for the words to come. It’s really effective and the humor worked for me, for the most part.

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Manga Review: DAI DARK Vol. 1-2 by Q Hayashida (2021)

Genre: Science fiction horror comedy shonen
Year Release in English: 2021
Source: BOOK☆WALKER

Reminder: The star rating reflects overall opinion of the series.

In short, perfect for fans trying to fill in the space skeleton dark fantasy horror void while waiting for any news about Alecto the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir.

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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Review: LUCK OF THE TITANIC by Stacey Lee (2021)

Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction
Year Release: 2021
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: racism, racial slurs,. freezing to death, drowning

The story of the Titanic fascinated me as a child. The luxury, the hubris, and specific ironic tragedy captivated me. But now as I’m older, I gravitate towards the individual stories of passengers. When I saw that a young adult novel about fictional characters had been coming out, I was thrilled.

Valora Luck gets a ticket on the Titanic where her twin brother Jamie who’s on his way to America in search of work. Because of policies like the Chinese Exclusion Act in the U.S., Valora has to sneak her way on board and gain passage into America using acrobatics and cleverness to win over an associate of Ringling Brothers.

Immersive in a way that made me periodically remind myself that there was a major maritime disaster on the way, this is a must-read for those who additional details and contexts about the people who found themselves on that doomed voyage.

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June 2021 Reading Recap

June was my birth month! I also finished writing an entire project! It’s an exciting time of reconnecting with myself and art, and it’s been lovely. I also spent a lot of time at the gym getting into the rowing machine and preparing for my big move in August.

I am so excited to have hosted Fran Wilde to cheer on The Ship of Stolen Words and Jen Karner to celebrate the release of their debut, Cinders of Yesterday.

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ARC Review: THE TAKING OF JAKE LIVINGSTON by Ryan Douglass (2021)

Genre: Young Adult Horror
Year Release: July 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books | Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read a NetGalley eARC
Content warning: Gore, school shooting, revenge porn, attempted rape, bullying, homophobia, abuse by parents

Jake Livingston is one of the only Black student at St. Claire’s Prep. The ghosts reliving their deaths and ghouls following him don’t make high school any easier. When a mass shooter from the town’s recent past decides to pick Jake as his next target, it’s a race against escalating violence as Jake comes into his powers as a medium to banish the spirit once and for all.

An atmospherically horrifying new voice in horror that had me reading this book through splayed fingers from start to finish, while clinging onto the hope for a happy-for-now ending for Jake.

Author Ryan Douglass will be featured on the blog on release day, July 13.

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