Review: THE ICE MAN: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer by Philip Carlo (2006)

Genre: Adult True Crime Nonfiction
Year Release: 2006
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Consumption by rats, mafia violence, murder, gore, dismemberment, child abuse, sexual abuse, domestic abuse, spousal abuse, drug use, alcoholism

I got here via The Last Podcast on the Left series on Richard Kuklinski. It covers most of what happens in this book. The abridged version is ridiculous. But the unabridged account of Richard Kuklinski and his career as a mafia contract killer borders on fictional. Taking place in the tri-state area from the later 50’s to the late 80’s, this book uncovers a grisly piece of New York City history. The mafia was at their peak of activity, and the New York Police Department worked to take down the vast networks of associates and core family members. But Richard “The Ice Man” Kuklinski served several families and largely stayed off the NYPD’s radar.

This biography is about as rounded as you can get when examining the life and crimes of a killer who managed to hide his work from his family.

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Review: ENDURANCE: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing (1959)

Genre: Adult Historical Nonfiction
Year Release: 1959
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Frostbite, graphic descriptions of amputations, hunting, consumption of pets, gangrene

Spoiler alert: they all survive this one.

Told with rich contextualization of the available technology and understanding of wilderness survival in the early 1900’s, Endurance covers the harrowing adventure of Ernest Shackleton and his crew attempting to reach the South Pole. With fantastic characterizations and attention-to-detail, Lansing’s account captures all the trials and tribulations. Ultimately, it shows what a difference exploring a place with a landmass rather than strictly unpredictable ice floes and pack ice can make on the success of a journey. Though they failed in reaching their destination, there is this story to be told in all its rugged excitement.

As it always is with me and these types of stories, I wanna go to the South Pole at the end of the day.

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Review: THE RAGE OF DRAGONS (The Burning#1) by Evan Winter (2019)

Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: 2019
Source: Audible

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Vomiting, gore, blood, body horror, incineration

Since this book came out, many people whose reviews and tastes I respect encouraged me to read it. But they didn’t tell me why, and for that, I am miffed at them (not really, not at all).

In a world ravaged by war, Tau loses his father and vows revenge on those who betrayed him. To do this, he enrolls in a battle school to become the greatest swordsman who ever lived. The challenges along the way include battles against women who can call dragons from a demon dimension to Enrage warriors into becoming horrific beasts of battle quite literally and the nobility who sneer at him for his caste and underestimate him at every turn.

This book is an absolute treat for anyone who enjoys giant battles, big stakes, heart-wrenching personal tensions, and, of course, dragons.

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Review: FATHOMS: The World in the Whale by Rebecca Giggs (2020)

Genre: Adult Science Nonfiction
Year Release: 2020
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Decomposition, animal death, climate change, animal cruelty

Whales will always be my favorite thing. So large, so unaware of their size. Such a strange route to evolution, where the progenitor whale went back into the sea, rather than staying in the ocean depths.

The angle this book takes isn’t one that’s strictly about whales. It’s about these gentle giants in concert with both the human world and the natural world. How much we can learn about climate change can also be elucidated from examining their biology. Captivating, anecdotal, and quite funny in places at the absurdity of man, I learn a little bit more with each new whale book I read.

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Review: THE GRIP OF IT by Jac Jemc (2017)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: 2017
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Vomiting, menstruation, cervical injury, stalking, gaslighting

A couple finally gets their shit together, buys a house, and move in. But there’s no evidence of the realtor. Their neighbor stalks them and goes missing. There are teeth in the walls. This quick read is creepy, atmospheric, and makes you question reality along with Julie and James.

The simplicity of the prose in this one was what got me. The details and terrors are presented so plainly, there’s no attempt at using metaphor to describe what’s going on, it’s brilliant. The house just has teeth in the walls and secret doors everywhere, it’s not a big deal.

The other edge of the blade that makes this novel work really well is the almost literary presentation of Julie and James’ relationship. He has been keeping a gambling addiction from her. She resorts to the comforts of friends who only have platitudes to offer. When the hauntings move to physical ailments and distortions in reality’s fabric, the house almost becomes a Dorian-Gray-esque reflection of the couple’s inner turmoil.

Getting your life together seems like a terrible idea.

Review: MUTED by Tami Charles (2021)

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Year Release: 2021
Source: Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: abuse (physical, sexual, mental), kidnapping, gaslighting, manipulation, abuse, forced dieting and weight loss, homophobia, sexual assault

A dream turns into a nightmare as Denver sees an opportunity to get into the R&B industry through superstar Sean “Mercury” Ellis. It starts off with the lavish trappings of fame like parties and studio time, but devolves into manipulation and abuse as Merc tries to stamp out Denver’s voice, while also showing the ways she can fight back.

With parallels to the 2019 documentary, Surviving R. Kelly, this novel in verse does not pull any punches, exposing the dark side of the music industry and the ways young women can fight back.

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Review: WE KEEP THE DEAD CLOSE: A Murder at Harvard and a Half Century of Silence by Becky Cooper

Genre: Adult True Crime Nonfiction
Year Release: 2020
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Murder, sexual harassment, power imbalance, work place harassment, sexual assault

A murder at Harvard that’s been left unsolved for decades, the murder of Jane Britton is passed around as a bit of a ghost story, a poltergeist haunting the archaeology department. One undergrad, writer Becky Cooper, doesn’t want to leave it at that, and embarks on a quest to find the truth behind this brutal murder.

What unfolds in a eye-widening exploration of misogyny in academia, silencing on an institutional level, and frightening parallels between gender equality in the late 60’s/early 70’s and in the 2000’s.

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Review: LAKEWOOD by Megan Giddings (2020)

Genre: Adult Science Fiction/Horror
Year Release: 2020
Source: Chirp Audiobooks

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: medical experimentation, vomiting, self-harm

Lena’s grandmother dies and her mother needs medical treatment. She drops out of college to care for her mother, but then a too-good-to-be-true offer comes her way in the form of participating in a research study. It involves being part of some testing at a facility that hides behind a venture called Lakewood Shipping Company. Horrors come to light as they make Lena and the other participants take untested medications.

Disturbing in a way that is all too real, I could not pull myself away from this read.

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Review: AMARI AND THE NIGHT BROTHERS (Supernatural Investigations #1) by B.B. Alston (2021)

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Year Release: 2021
Source: Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: bullying, light fantasy violence

Middle grade fiction is full of wonder and magic, and this book is the cream of the crop. It is a little bit Men in Black, a little bit Artemis Fowl, with plenty of Black girl magic and heart.

Amari joins the summer tryouts for the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs to get answers behind her brother, Quinton’s, disappearance. It has all the enchantment of being part of a secret magic society with references to classic monsters and common mythologies. This book tailored to some very specific interests, and I loved it.

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Review: THE LOST CHILDREN ARCHIVE by Valeria Luiselli (2019)

Genre: Adult Literary Fiction
Year Release: 2019
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: American border crisis, missing children

A family goes on a road trip to record voices and sounds, but as the trip moves south, the husband becomes obsessed with following the story of the Apaches, while the wife seeks to unravel the mystery of a Mexican friend’s two missing children. All while their own kids watch their parents’ marriage dissolve in real time.

An effective demonstration of the power of multi-media story-telling, this moving and inventive novel makes great use of shifting perspectives to tell a deeply personal story that works so well in its framing narrative.

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