Review: FIREKEEPER’S DAUGHTER by Angeline Boulley (2021)

Genre: Young Adult Thriller
Year Release: 2021
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Trigger warning: Drug abuse, gun violence, rape (depicted, fade-to-black), microaggressions against indigenous people, vomiting, drug overdose, murder, kidnapping

Taking place on the border between the U.S. and Canada, this thriller follows Daunis Fontaine, a biracial, dorky, 18-year-old who deferred college enrollment to take care of her mother and grandmother. A newcomer captures Daunis’ attention and hidden truths come to light when she witnesses a murder. The body count starts climbing and the source of harrowing trouble might hit closer to home than initially expected.

Heart-breaking as it is beautifully written, Boulley presents a thriller that’s as much about the power of community and honoring those around you as it is about the terrible ways the drug trade ravages communities.

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Review: THE OTHER BLACK GIRL by Zakiya Dalila Harris (2021)

Genre: Adult Literary Suspense
Year Release: 2021
Source: Audible

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Microaggressions, racism, stalking, kidnapping

A new co-worker in the office tends to be exciting. When another Black girl arrives and Nella Rogers is no longer the only Black girl her at her company, strange things begin to happen. Mysterious notes and cryptic texts telling her to leave Wagner send Nella in a spiral that could unravel the fabric of reality itself.

Excellent in its twists, and takes its sweet time establishing understanding, The Other Black Girl interrogates the publishing infrastructure for its lack of diversity while also introducing dread and menace in a tightly woven mystery.

If this has been pitched to you as Get Out meets The Stepford Wives but make it publishing, you’ve got an accurate description of this book.

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Review: THE SHIP OF STOLEN WORDS by Fran Wilde (2021)

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary Fantasy
Year Release: 2021
Source: Audible

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook

Pigs fly in this whimsical novel about the importance of meaning what you say and not relying too heavily on short cuts to getting out of trouble. Fifth grader Sam is ready to kick off summer but when teasing goes too far and a little library gets vandalized, he loses the ability to use his favorite word, “sorry.” The culprits are goblins, and we’re set off on an adventure featuring prospectors, goblins, and ships powered by words.

A delight from start to finish, it was wonderful to watch Sam learn the importance of action behind meaning and Tolver learning the hard way that just because he can, doesn’t mean he should.

Treats here include understanding adults, uneven roads to forgiveness, plus Ursula K. Le Guin elementary which I wish was actually a thing I could claim as a place where I studied. I’m so excited to have Fran on the blog next week.

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Review: SOCIAL CREATURE by Tara Isabella Burton (2018)

Genre: Adult Literary Thriller
Year Release: 2018
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Alcoholism, murder, drug use, dubious consensual sex, domestic violence, attempted suicide

This book is absolute bananas from start to finish. A worthy entry into books which spiritually remind me of My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh, Social Creature features Louisa and Lavinia at its core. Louisa is a down-on-her-luck New York City transplant who works several jobs to not even make ends meet until one day, she’s booked as a tutor for Cordelia and meets Lavinia. Lavinia is a socialite who is one a sabbatical from Yale who lives in some kind of alternate universe where everything is beauty and poetry. We know Lavinia dies, and we beat witness to that toxic friendship.

This book has prose that hypnotizes with all the surreal glitz of oblivion. A wild ride from start to finish where having everyone be deeply unlikeable is part of the charm.

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Review: THE HOUSE THAT WASN’T THERE by Elana K. Arnold (2021)

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary Fantasy
Year Release: 2021
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Deceased parent

In this charming and heart-warming novel, Alder sees that the walnut tree between his house and his neighbor’s had been cut down. A new girl, Oak, moves right next door and the two are off to a rocky start. But due to school projects and adopting kitten siblings, I found it really sweet from start to finish and a brilliant use of literary devices to make an exceptionally satisfying resolution.

During the fall, I had taken Arnold’s Revision Season class and I feel like a lot of the concepts were on display here. The pieces of this story’s puzzle and its mystery fit so perfectly together, allowing the reader to fall to the rhythm and charm from start to finish. Great care was taken to make sure that motifs fit and that concepts were repeated, but not so much in a way that seemed repetitive. Really effective, really tight writing to be found here.

I greatly appreciated the range of children’s experiences and emotions present throughout the book. It was really great to see them disagree with their parents and have that interaction be honest and respectful. The fact that is mirrored among the children also added a necessary cohesion to the prose’s evolution as the we learned more and more about the goings on around.

Overall, really quick listen with a satisfying mystery to boot.

Review: RASPUTIN: Faith, Power, and the Twilight of the Romanovs by Douglas Smith (2016)

Genre: Adult Historical Nonfiction
Year Release: 2018
Source: Audible

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Alcoholism, rape allegations, religious persecution, murder, slander, propaganda, rural poverty

Once again, this nonfiction read comes from being thoroughly entertained by Last Podcast on the Left’s breakdown of the Russian mystic’s biography. Dear reader, there is even more to it than can be covered in a 4-part podcast series.

Douglas Smith’s account of the self-proclaimed holy man not only covers the isolated facts of his life, but also goes into contextualizing both Russian culture at the time and the myths and attitudes that contributed to his notoriety.

Told through letters, newspaper articles, diary entries, and other primary sources, this very long, captivating read ultimately leaving it up to the reader to piece together the truth about this absolutely ridiculous man. It’d be foolish to say that Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin did nothing wrong, but the antichrist, he was not.

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Review: THE RESURRECTION OF FULGENCIO RAMIREZ by Rudy Ruiz (2020)

Genre: Adult Magical Realism Historical Fiction
Year Release: 2020
Source: Chirp Audiobooks

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: child abuse, cartel violence, discrimination, hate crimes, alcoholism, physical violence, vehicular manslaughter

Fulgencio Ramirez is a renowned pharmacist in the border town of La Frontera. He scans the newspaper, waiting for news of a death. When it comes, we’re launched into the epic tale of his and Carolina Mendelssohn star-crossed romance, starting in the 50’s and onward. There’s tragedy, heartbreak, the dead not being truly gone, serenades with mariachi bands, roses blooming in winter, and the pursuit of the American dream. This book was a delight through all the twists and turns.

Bittersweet, deeply romantic, the dead are never truly gone in this work of magical realism. In fact, death might just be the beginning.

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Review: WHAT BEAUTY THERE IS by Cory Anderson (2021)

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Thriller
Year Release: 2021
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Hanging, drug-related crimes and violence, meth, poverty, violence against children, emotional abuse, blood, death of mothers

This contemporary thriller follows brothers Jack and Matty, whose father is in jail and her mother had just died by suicide. With funds dwindling, older brother Jack choose money to keep himself and his brother out of the foster care system. Except for the fact that a scoundrel named Bardem chases after them. A detective also tries to make heads and tails of the trail of bodies, but everyone is hardly a half-step ahead of the others.

A book that makes great use of its wintery setting in theme and tone, this tale of brothers tugs at the heartstrings something fierce as they rely on each other and another fellow child to make it to the other side.


This book is as brutal as its prose is beautiful. There were times I had to pause the audiobook because a line or a turn of phrase stopped me in its place. Or, in the opposite direction, some absolutely bananas turn comes out and the reader scrambles as much as the characters to figure out the next step. It works on a character and plot-level. With break-neck pacing and deliberate pauses for character development, Anderson shows deft guidance but also lets the reader experience this fraught journey.

While Jack wears his heart on his sleeve, Ava is a mystery that slowly unravels. We know from her introduction that Bardem is her father, and he raised her to be as closed-off from the goodness in the world as he is. This book toes the line between survival and cruelty, especially in her POV. She could have abandoned the brothers at any turn, but stays to help. The tension can be cut with a knife. But there is so much tenderness, of kids recognizing the hurt in each other. It’s so beautifully done, it hurts.

For those who need it, there is a puppy in the final act, and he makes it to the end.

Review: UNDER THE KNIFE: A History of Surgery in 28 Remarkable Operations by Arnold Van de Laar (2018)

Genre: Adult Science Nonfiction
Year Release: 2018
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Infections, sutures, stitches, fatphobia (mentions of obesity), gore, blood, old-timey medicine

Clearly, my non-fiction reads have taken on a specific mood. We have more gross human anatomy and the things people have done to it. This time, it’s not about cadavers, but about the major turning points in development of the operational theater.

Van de Laar clearly has a passion for the work he does. He takes great care describing the importance of his work, but also contextualizing the attitudes and beliefs leading up to the pivotal changes.

My knowledge about medical history barely scratches the surface, so it feels disingenuous to say that I learned a lot. But I did! The histories told here are as interesting as the voyeurism of someone explaining medical procedures. Particular highlights include Bob Marley’s toe, Pope John Paul II’s bullet wound, and the number of times I whispered, “Oh no, don’t do that” while listening. Your mileage may vary depending on your squeamishness when it comes to infections and related.

Review: STIFF: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach (2004)

Genre: Adult Sciene Nonfiction
Year Release: 2004
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Human remains, death, decapitation, cannibalism, old-timey medicine and related horrors

This book is not one for weak stomachs, no matter how much humor she injects between each grisly detail. Starting with a visit to the morgue, Roach meticulously goes through the history of how surgical preparation and practice came to be.

But the scope of the book also covers consumption of human flesh for medicinal purpose, human decomposition, the science of head transplants, crash test dummies, the Shroud of Turin, and much, much more.

It’s interesting and I would highly advise against eating this while eating. Ultimately, it’s strangely wholesome and about the ways the dead can bring people and cultures together.