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: THE ROUTE OF ICE AND SALT by José Luis Zárate (2021)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: 2021 (1998 in Spanish)
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content/Trigger warnings: discussion of a hate crime, voyeurism, nightmares, PTSD

Continuing the series of vampire books we, as a culture, were not privy to until very recently (first of which is The Gilda Stories), this novella is a retelling of Dracula’s journey to England from the point of view of the ship’s captain. It originally came out in 1998, but debuted in English last year.

This novella is horny and gothic with all the pricks and discomfort of long months of an icy sea.

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Review: I’M SO (NOT) OVER YOU by Kosoko Jackson (2022)

Genre: Adult Romance
Year Release: 2022
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: sexual harassment (challenged), homophobia (challenged), anxiety, car accident, vomiting

Some of my recent reads flattened me emotionally, so I sought some lighter fare. Thankfully, my hold from the library lifted, and I got to read a romance novel. This one is about Hudson and Kian, who are exes. As the title suggests, Kian thinks he’s healed from the heartbreak, but then Hudson invites him as his plus one to a wedding at his family’s estate. Wedding hijinks, pop culture references, and second chances ensue.

A steamy romance between two gay men of color as they overcome their own insecurities to find support in each other, regardless their past.

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Review: UNACCEPTABLE: Privilege, Deceit & the Making of the College Admissions Scandal by Melissa Korn & Jennifer Levitz (2020)

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook

Yes. I’m still inhaling everything I can about fraud. Fraudsters did a whole series, including interviews with the authors of this book who did the investigating (the episodes start with 36: Rick Singer Part I). While the series is thorough, I did want to get at it from the source.

The saga of the college admissions scandal is much stranger than even the reports can come out. It’s a story of the desperation to prove oneself and having awfully specific goals that supersede decency. It’s also a scathing condemnation at the ridiculousness that is applying to college for which there is no real solution as long as branding and exclusivity take priority over the quality of education.

A great read if you want to make fun of the ridiculousness of rich people and also get incredibly angry about privilege and gaming systems that already bend towards those who are winning.

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Review: THE ICEPICK SURGEON: Murder, Fraud, Sabotage, Piracy, and Other Dastardly Deeds Perpetrated in the Name of Science by Sam Kean (2021)

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: slavery, nonconsensual medical experimentation, torture, Nazis

I’ve been on a bit of a fraud kick lately (I highly recommend listening to Fraudsters for the corporate side of things). With the Theranos saga mostly coming to an end, I’ve been hunting for some new scandal to get into. Mentioned in the American Scandal podcast was the story of Annie Dookhan, who inflated her drug sample testing records, this book was listed as the primary source. Naturally, I got into the entire thing.

A collection of stories ranging the full gamut of possible crimes, from sabotage, fraud, murder, war crimes, and nonconsensual medical experimentation that blames the contemporary establishments as much as it condemns the individuals involved.

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Review: LAST CALL: A True Story of Love, Lust, and Murder in Queer New York by Elon Green (2021)

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: murder, sexual assault, blood gore, homophobia, racism (n-word used in Chapter 7), police violence, discrimination

I don’t talk about it too often, but I grew in New York City in Chelsea, a short walk’s away from establishments mentioned in this book like Duplex and the historic Stonewall Inn. So, naturally, I picked this one up to learn a little bit about queer history and the history of my neighborhood. Amid the AIDS epidemic, the high murder rate, and city politics of the 80’s and 90’s, the Last Call Killer committed a string of serial murders that went largely un-reported until the release of this book.

Author Green uses the pages within this book to talk about queer culture, attitudes of society at large, and shining a spotlight on the lives lost to a killer who didn’t come to justice until modern technology

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Review: THE UNWOMANLY FACE OF WAR: An Oral History of Women in World War II by Svetlana Alexievich (2017)

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: war, gore, blood, dismemberment, bereavement, child death, sexual assault (briefly mentioned), dehumanization, slur against Romani, Holocaust, labor camps

Svetlana Alexievich has a phenomenal ability of pulling together oral histories. My first entry into her work is Voices from Chernobyl, which made up a significant portion of the TV program’s source material. This had sat on my TBR list for a while because of its content matter. Now that I’ve dived in, it is affecting. From the content of the accounts themselves to the delivery of the story telling, this work took me a while to get through. There are no filters to be found here, so proceed at your own discretion.

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Trio Review: The SMALL SPACES series by Katherine Arden (2018-2021)

From left to right: covers for Small Spaces (2018), Dead Voices (2019), and Dark Waters (2021), all by Katherine Arden

To get in the mood for spooky season, I’ve decided to dip back into some horror reads. Katherine Arden’s shift to Middle Grade has been on my radar for a bit. What a delightful series it is. We follow the scary adventures of Ollie Adler, Coco Zintner, and Brian Battersby, three middle schoolers with different experiences of the supernatural. These books are scary but heartwarming, with tense situations and fantastic character development. The cliffhanger Dark Waters ends on makes me impatient for the next book, but they are a delight and highly recommended for fans of things like Over the Garden Wall, Crimson Peak, and urban legends coming to life.

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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.

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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.

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