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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March 2021 Reading Recap

March was my first full month of dayjob. I also took a small break from writing after a major breakthrough in the revision. Unfortunately, that means rewriting the entire thing. In spite of that, I did get a lot of reading done. I even read my first physical copy of the year.

To be fair, I am finding a lot of solace in manga right now, and I can’t quite articulate why. When I figured it out, I will definitely let you know. I have also gotten majorly into buying earrings from indigenous creators. More details about this can be found on my Instagram.

The interview I did this month with C.L. Clark to celebrate their debut, The Unbroken, is one of my favorite interviews yet. I also posted a personal-feeling advice piece on beta reading and giving feedback in general (Writing is Hard Part 8).

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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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February 2021 Reading Recap

February is the shortest month and wow did so many things happen. I quit my dayjob because I got an offer for another day job more aligned with where I want to be and the things I want to do. My boyfriend got (and accepted) into a PhD program. I managed to do a lot of manga reading and a fair amount of audiobooks. All in all, it was a fine month.

There were three whole author interviews too:

  • Genevieve Gornichec celebrated her debut with The Witch’s Heart
  • Karin Tidbeck delighted us with some insight into the inspiration behind their latest, The Memory Theater
  • Sarah Gailey shared their process of choosing a near-future sci-fi setting where The Echo Wife takes place
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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: 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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Duo Review: THE PROJECT by Courtney Summers (2021) and THE ROAD TO JONESTOWN by Jeff Guinn (2017)

I read these books in close proximity to each other. After learning that the non-fiction was used as research for the fiction, I thought it would be neat to combine them.

The Project (2021) by Courtney Summers (left) and The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple (2017) by Jeff Guinn

Cults are a subject that have fascinated true crime writers and fans for quite some time. From their deadly demises to the strategic and manipulative ways they entice people to their group, there is so much to examine, and so many opportunities for heart-break. In 2021’s The Project, Courtney Summers tells the story of a budding journalist, Lo, who tries to reconnect with her sister, Bea, who had been lost to a cult, The Unity Project. The rise of Lev Warren can be easily mapped onto the rise of Jim Jones and Peoples Temple in the 70s, a socialist organization which had a flimflam man who believed himself God at its center. Both books are chilling, heartbreaking, and compliment each other so well.

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January 2021 Reading Recap

We made it through January 2021, the longest month in a while. I managed to read 18 different things, and thus, I am switching up the format of these recaps. I’m going to show a grid of each work by category with links to the reviews to read at your own leisure. Feedback appreciated.

This month’s author interview was with S.T. Gibson, to celebrate the release of her Dracula’s brides retelling, A Dowry of Blood.

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Review: BRAIDING SWEETGRASS: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer (2016)

Genre: Adult Nonfiction
Year Release: 2016
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook

The way science and traditional knowledge come together in this work is accessible and simply elegant. Botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer contextualizes her relationship with plants through the lens of Potawatomi culture.

It starts from her family history, to the misunderstanding between academia and her appreciation of plant life, to the specific experiences and research trips she coordinated, this wonderful read follows a central thesis that everything is symbiotic. It is up to us to see the exchange between people and nature, and the ways we can learn from each other.

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ARC Review: A SWIM IN A POND IN THE RAIN: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life by George Saunders (2021)

Genre: Nonfiction (Writing Craft)
Year Release: January 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop | Libro.fm | Unabridged Books

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read a NetGalley eARC

This is my first foray into nineteenth century Russian short stories and Saunders’ experience teaching them page-by-page shines through this craft book that is also a specific craft study. Saunders selected works by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Gogol to explore how these stories work and the connections between readers and authors.

What really stuck out to me about this collection was the subjectivity of the analysis and the dispersal of advice. Saunders makes it abundantly clear that the reader is allowed to get out of this work what they will. Disagreement with his impressions is encouraged throughout, and he even used the page space to refer to his own evolving relationship with these works. The balance between analysis of each story and more zoomed-out writing advice and Saunders’ own insights play well together, and it kept me engaged from start to finish.

There are definitely bits that I am taking with me as far as the exercises go, and some of the adages of what makes great writing work. A recommended read for people who learn by example (like yours truly).