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.

Continue reading

Review: IN THE HEART OF THE SEA: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick (2005)

Genre: Adult Historical Nonfiction
Year Release: 2005
Source: Audible

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: Cannibalism, racism, starvation, dehydration, cannibalism, descriptions of whale butchering

This is the story that inspired Moby Dick. The whaleship Essex attempts to take down a sperm whale, but the sperm whale has other ideas and sinks the ship. What then goes down is a grisly tale of survival and survival cannibalism as the crew members float along the Pacific hoping for rescue. What also features in this narrative is a lot of contextualization of whaling as an international enterprise, the lives of the crew before the tragedy, and what became of them after.

With incredible pacing and thorough research, I found myself glued to this narrative from start to finish.

Continue reading

Review: THE JASMINE THRONE (The Burning #1) by Tasha Suri (2021)

Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: 2021
Source: Audible

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: Immolation, suicide, drug abuse and recovery, sibling abuse, gaslighting, execution by elephant, homophobia (both internal and external)

Malini’s tyrant of a brother locked her up in the Hirana, a decaying temple, and Priya is one of the many servants employed to take care of her. But when Malini witnesses the secret Priya tries to hide, the two form a tense alliance which can change the structure of an empire forever.

This book has so many things: swoony writing, intricate politics, kind people at the end of their rope, thorough depictions of the different political and social strata. There’s also plant magic, waters with mystical regenerative properties, mythologies that contradict, a magical plague, and then some. It’s a treat for any fantasy lover.

Continue reading

Review: BABY TEETH by Zoje Stage (2018)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: 2018
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: abuse, Crohn’s disease, parental neglect, attempted murder, hitting a child, gaslighting, burning

Usually when there is a horror trope of an evil child, the kid is either possessed or we see the entire thing from the parent’s point of view. In this book, we get the point of view of the mother, Suzette, and the daughter, Hannah. Suzette has Crohn’s disease, body image issues, and really wants a life that isn’t being a stay at home mother. Hannah, meanwhile, has been expelled from several kindergartens and refuses to speak. Something dark lurks beneath and she wants her mother out of the picture.

Baby Teeth is designed to make the reader deeply uncomfortable with sharp prose that’s intense from start to finish.

Continue reading

Review: GOOD GIRL, BAD BLOOD (A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder #2) by Holly Jackson (2021)

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

Read my review of the first book, A Good Girls’ Guide to Murder.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: gaslighting, missing person, rape (mentioned, not depicted), murder, gun shots

I dragged my feet a bit on listening to this one. I’m having a hard time with fiction, but something that’s a mystery with a structure that has to deliver on certain beats could fix some of it. Wow, was I correct.

In this sequel, there’s another mystery to solve and Pippa tries to have nothing to do with it. But when the police are true-to-life useless, it’s up to her and her podcast to come to the rescue.

Predictable in a masterful way that the author lays out everything that’s coming, really fun to listen to on audiobook, especially give the full cast performance in multi-format.

Continue reading

Duo Review: DEVIANT (1985) and PSYCHO USA (2012) by Harold Schechter

It took me ten days to listen to the interview between Last Podcast on the Left, Harold Schechter, and Eric Powell discussing their new graphic novel project because I kept getting distracted by reading Schechter’s work. I thought it would make more sense to combine the reviews.

Deviant: The Shocking True Story of Ed Gein, the Original “Psycho” (1985) on the left and Psycho USA: Famous American Killers You’ve Never Heard of (2012) on the right, both by Harold Schechter

I spend more time than is probably recommended listening to Last Podcast on the Left. Which is why it surprised me that it took me days to get through an interview that’s just under an hour long. Infected with Marcus Parks’ enthusiasm for Schechter’s work, I wanted to dive in and do some of my own reading. Wow, the hype is definitely well-earned. The discussion of mental health in both works seem somewhat progressive for their time, especially given the subject matter. The structure of both novels also kept me engaged and is worth studying from a story-telling perspective.

Continue reading

Review: EREBUS: One Ship, Two Epic Voyages, and the Greatest Naval Mystery of All Time by Michael Palin (2021)

Genre: Adult Nonfiction
Year Release: 2018
Source: Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: freezing to death, starvation, light cannibalism, frostbite, hunting

HMS Erebus is one of the ships that went missing during the ill-fated Franklin Expedition of 1845. What this book does, however, is tell the whole story of the ship, from her initial build to her Antarctic voyage to the last departure for the Northwest Passage. Author Michael Palin follows this ship’s intrepid voyage while also talking about the litany of captains at her helm and passengers in her hull.

Regardless my fascination with the Franklin Expedition and maritime Arctic exploration disasters, this audiobook is one of the best times I’ve had. There’s music and sound at the top of every chapter and Palin clearly has much enthusiasm for the topic at hand.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading