Review: RAISING LAZARUS: Hope, Justice, and the Future of America’s Overdose Crisis by Beth Macy (2022)

Genre: Adult Nonfiction
Year Release: 2022
Source: Audible

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content/trigger warnings: COVID-19, overdose, vomiting, prison, drug abuse, structural inequality, death of relatives

This book is a kind of sequel to Dopesick, in that it is a continuation of Beth Macy’s research and investigation into the impact and extent of the devastation left behind by the Sackler’s mismarketing and straight-up lying about the acute and long-term effects of their so-called miracle drug. There is some follow-up with the activists, doctors, and caregivers from the initial investigation, with several new key players in the movement to curb overdose deaths both within Appalachia and nationwide.

Though “hope” is in the subtitle, this volume reckons with the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down many of the boots-on-the-ground work with regards to harm reduction and further stigmatization and rethinking addiction as a disease rather than a personal failing. It does end, however, with action items that the reader can take on personal, political, and local levels.

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Review: ROGUES: True Stories of Grifters, Killers, Rebels and Crooks by Patrick Radden Keefe (2022)

Genre: Adult Nonfiction
Year Release: 2022
Source: Audible

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: terrorism, mentions of rape and child sexual assault, mentions of parental death, gun violence, colonization, suicide, drug abuse, state-sanctioned violence, 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, 2016 election

Empire of Pain was among my favorite reads last year, so when I belated saw that Patrick Radden Keefe published a collection of his New Yorker articles, I knew immediately what I had to listen to next. Keefe has such a knack for contextualization and bringing the human element into stories that are known for their divisiveness and post-hoc sensationism.

I found myself enthralled by the care, research, and thought put into every snippet of some very recognizable and major cases in contemporary history, ranging from wine fraud to drug lords to pharmaceutical fraud to a beloved culinary figure.

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Review: THE MEMORY LIBRARIAN: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer by Janelle Monáe (2022)

Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Year Release: 2022
Source: Audible

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: gendered violence, parental death, brain washing, gun violence, state-sanctioned violence

This collection takes place in a world where memories can be hard encoded and people essentially function like computers. New Dawn has strict ideas of what being a functioning member of society means. Though there’s echoes of a utopia, it’s a full on surveillance state. Each of the five stories found within the collection takes on a different angle in how New Dawn poses a danger both for those within the system and those beyond it.

Thoughtfully woven together with rad stories and characters, incredible world-building, this was a delight to read, and I’m excited to dive into the source material (Dirty Computer, 2018) in the near future.

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Book & Show Review: DOPESICK (2018 & 2021)

While watching The Dropout with a good friend of mine, she recommended Dopesick the show to me. Seven episodes in, I found myself so absorbed in the fabricated stories that I wanted to dive immediately into the true story that inspired the acclaimed miniseries. Naturally, I binged it on audible, and then watched Episode 8. So, we’re in for another double review.

For more reads about the Sacklers and the opioid epidemic, I highly recommend the incredibly well-researched and infuriating, Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe.

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Review: ROAD OF BONES by Christopher Golden (2022)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: 2022
Source: Audible

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: gore, suicide and suicidal ideation, discussion of gulags, gun violence, violence against animals

Filmmaker Teig and his cameraman Prentiss are searching for a hit that would bring them out of financial doldrums after several failed reality television projects. The sordid and haunted history behind the Kolyma highway seems to be a great backdrop for a new paranormal investigation series. Until something dark and hungry comes out of the woods and leads these desperate men through a high octane chase across a landscape designed to kill all who enter it.

Really spooky and kept me rooted to the audiobook just to find out what happens next and how the different emotional threads and character arcs resolve.

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Review: TENDER IS THE FLESH by Agustina Bazterrica (2020)

Genre: Adult Literary Fiction Horror
Year Release: 2021
Source: Audible

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: cannibalism, slaughterhouse machinations, humans as sustenance, sexual abuse, rape, blood play, violence against puppies

In the alternate universe in which this book takes place, a virus has made all meat poisonous to humans, except for that certain hunger. The rest is told from the perspective of Marcos, a worker at one of the facilities whose life is falling apart. Until he’s “gifted” with a female, and things get worse from there.

While low on plot and shock value beyond its conceit, the ending punched me in the face on a journey that is very frank with its depiction and high in its interiority.

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Review: SEX CULT NUN: Breaking Away from the Children of God, a Wild, Radical Religious Cult by Faith Jones (2021)

Genre: Adult Memoir
Year Release: 2021
Source: Audible

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Trigger warnings (all of these are graphic): Child sexual abuse, rape, sexual assault, incest, suicidal ideation, murder, isolation, gaslighting, manipulation, abuse, trauma in the name of religion

I finished listening to this book days ago and have finally figured out how to talk about it. It’s not an easy story or an easy read. But the author’s note at the beginning outlines what Jones set out to do: tell a coming of an age story from the point of view of a girl who grew up in a religious cult. In that, it is successful. Heartbreakingly successful.

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Review: NIGHTBITCH by Rachel Yoder (2021)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: 2021
Source: Audible

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: Gore, body horror, violence against animals (the cat dies)

A mother lives with her toddler and engineer husband. One day, hair like fur starts showing up on her body and the story only gets weirder and more visceral from there. She’s trying to reconcile who she is as a mother in contrast to herself as an artist in contrast to society’s expectations of both.

This book is intense with an energy that made it so, so, so hard to look away until the curtain falls on a performance art piece that imitates life and the mythology woven throughout.

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Review: WYLDING HALL by Elizabeth Hand (2014)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: 2014
Source: Audible

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: Drug use

A folk band rents out a manor for the summer to record an album. The story of that recording is told through interviews with their manager, the bandmates, and others as they try to tell the full account of singer-guitarist Julian Blake’s disappearance.

This book is super eerie. The interview format really works here, as it’s super easy to track the different versions of the story, in addition to pin-pointing the moments when reality gets a bit wonky. The atmosphere shines through in the different tellings, with a great balance of nostalgia and things unspoken.

Getting any more specific will spoiler the experience, but this was a fun story to sink into, watching these youth make seemingly innocuous choices that rest in stark contrast to the horror to come.

Review: THE GIRLS ARE ALL SO NICE HERE by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn (2021)

Genre: Adult Psychological Thriller
Year Release: 2021
Source: Audible

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: Drug abuse, suicide, bullying, rape (depicted), alcoholism, murder

PR manager Ambrosia “Amb” Wellington is invited to a college reunion, but there are so many skeletons buried within that closet and someone is bent on revealing the truth. What follows is a story told in dual timelines, the past and the present, as what looks like normal college debauchery turns into a matter of light and death. There are parties, there are hookups, there are gross boys and even more despicable girls. There’s a laser focus on the extracurriculars of college that felt uncomfortably true to life.

This book is one hell of an anti-bullying PSA. It’s not often we see the person who did the bullying as the protagonist, but the layers to it are hard to take your eyes of.

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