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Book Review: The Half Life of Molly Pierce, Katrina Leno (2014)

Monday, October 6th, 2014

An Unexpectedly Heartfelt Look at Mental Illness

five out of five stars

(Trigger warning for depression and suicide. Also, this review is of an ARC. Any mistakes are mine and not the author’s or publisher’s.)

Seventeen-year-old Molly Pierce is blacking out. Losing time. Sometimes it’s just a few minutes; other times, hours or even most of a day passes before she comes to. One afternoon, the Massachusetts native was halfway to New York before she woke up behind the wheel of her car.

Though this has been going on for a year, Molly can’t tell anyone: Not her parents, who already walk on eggshells around her as it is; not her sister Hazel or brother Clancy; not her best friends Erie and Luka; not even her psychiatrist Alex. She’s too afraid of what might happen. She’ll be labeled “crazy,” shipped off to a “loony bin,” perhaps. Plus, talking about it? Giving voice to her problems? Makes them real. If she can just pretend to be normal, maybe she will be. Eventually.

(More below the fold…)

Remembering Molly Ivins

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

I will not support Hillary Clinton for president
January 20, 2006

AUSTIN, Texas — I’d like to make it clear to the people who run the Democratic Party that I will not support Hillary Clinton for president.

Enough. Enough triangulation, calculation and equivocation. Enough clever straddling, enough not offending anyone This is not a Dick Morris election. Sen. Clinton is apparently incapable of taking a clear stand on the war in Iraq, and that alone is enough to disqualify her. Her failure to speak out on Terri Schiavo, not to mention that gross pandering on flag-burning, are just contemptible little dodges.

The recent death of Gene McCarthy reminded me of a lesson I spent a long, long time unlearning, so now I have to re-learn it. It’s about political courage and heroes, and when a country is desperate for leadership. There are times when regular politics will not do, and this is one of those times. There are times a country is so tired of bull that only the truth can provide relief.

If no one in conventional-wisdom politics has the courage to speak up and say what needs to be said, then you go out and find some obscure junior senator from Minnesota with the guts to do it. In 1968, Gene McCarthy was the little boy who said out loud, “Look, the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.” Bobby Kennedy — rough, tough Bobby Kennedy — didn’t do it. Just this quiet man trained by Benedictines who liked to quote poetry.

What kind of courage does it take, for mercy’s sake? The majority of the American people (55 percent) think the war in Iraq is a mistake and that we should get out. The majority (65 percent) of the American people want single-payer health care and are willing to pay more taxes to get it. The majority (86 percent) of the American people favor raising the minimum wage. The majority of the American people (60 percent) favor repealing Bush’s tax cuts, or at least those that go only to the rich. The majority (66 percent) wants to reduce the deficit not by cutting domestic spending, but by reducing Pentagon spending or raising taxes.

The majority (77 percent) thinks we should do “whatever it takes” to protect the environment. The majority (87 percent) thinks big oil companies are gouging consumers and would support a windfall profits tax. That is the center, you fools. WHO ARE YOU AFRAID OF?

Go read the whole thing here. Tributes abound ’round the internets; try here, and here, and here.

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Thursday, November 12th, 2015

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Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

Book Review: Orphan Number Eight, Kim van Alkemade (2015)

Friday, August 7th, 2015

A Tense Psychological Thriller Tempered With a Heartrending Coming-of-Age Story

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through Edelweiss. Trigger warning for rape and violence, including illicit human experimentation. Also, this review contains a plot summary with minor spoilers.)

The question sounded strange in the present tense. I used to think that orphaned was something I’d been as a child and since outgrown. It occurred to me, though, that was exactly how I’d been feeling all summer.

“I guess anyone alone in the world’s an orphan,” I said.

The year is 1918, and four-year-old Rachel Rabinowitz has just landed in the Infant Home, an orphanage for Jewish kids under the age of six in New York City. After her lying, cheating, rapist father accidentally kills her mother* and then runs from the police, Rachel and her brother Sam are effectively orphaned, taken in by the Jewish Children’s Agency. Two years her senior, Sam is sent to the Orphaned Hebrews Home.

The children are considered lucky, in a sense: funded by wealthy patrons, the Infant Home and Orphaned Hebrews Home are well-regarded. Whereas gentile kids in their position – and there are many, left penniless, homeless, and/or without a family to call their own by the twin terrors of the so-called Spanish Influenza and World War I – would be left to fend for themselves, Rachel and Sam get a roof over their heads, beds to call their own, three square meals a day – even an education.

(More below the fold…)

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Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

The Rat Terrier Review: Top o’ the Muffin to Ya!

Saturday, June 13th, 2015

This week was pretty low-key, mostly on account of the sweltering heat. Thus we spent quite a bit of time sprawled out on the bed, under fans, and (in the dogs’ case) on the nice, cool concrete floors.

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Wednesday night we saw Avengers: Age of Ultron (MEH. Especially on the woman front.) and Tomorrowland (not bad) at the drive-in; it was so hot that the dogs nearly polished off the bowl of water we brought. They even sat still when I started splashing water from my canteen on them (desperate times, y’all). Peedee was pretty good, though not quite as amazaballs as last time; he barked twice, once at other moviegoers who walked right in front of HIS WINDOW (which was cracked pretty wide, in his defense), and again at the racket from the truck yard next door. Anyway, a good time was had by all, and we weren’t any hotter than we would have been at home, so.

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: The Ice Twins: A Novel, S.K. Tremayne (2015)

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

This Book is Bonkers

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through NetGalley. Trigger warning for rape and violence, including rough sex.)

“Mummy, why do you keep calling me Kirstie?”

I say nothing. The silence is ringing. I speak:

“Sorry, sweetheart. What?”

“Why do you keep calling me Kirstie, Mummy? Kirstie is dead. It was Kirstie that died. I’m Lydia.”

It’s been thirteen months since Sarah’s six-year-old daughter Lydia – one half of the “Ice Twins” – died in a tragic fall from her parents’ first-floor balcony in Devon. In the wake of the accident, the family all but fell apart: Sarah spiraled into a morass of grief and guilt – for it was she who was supposed to be watching the girls that fateful night – while her husband Angus found solace in the bottom of a whiskey bottle. An angry, sometimes-violent drunk like his father, Angus eventually was fired from his architecture job after assaulting his boss in an alcohol-fueled rage.

And the remaining daughter Kirstie? Well, she’s adrift without her other half. Best friends and then some, Kirstie and Lydia lived in their own little world. They had their own secret language and elaborate in-jokes, and in the months leading up to the accident, their identities had become so intertwined that they often dressed alike, swapped personas, and referred to themselves as a single entity, e.g., “Mummy, come and sit between me so you can read to us.” Now that Lydia’s gone, Kirstie is an island: alone, apart, desolate.

So what could be better than relocating Kirstie to an actual island? (Yes, that was sarcasm. Sarah and Angus are the worst.)

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: A Letter to My Mom, Lisa Erspamer (2015) – and a Mother’s Day letter to my mom!

Sunday, May 10th, 2015

“Sent from my heart” –

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Blogging for Books.)

The third book in Lisa Erspamer’s “letter” series (previous titles include A Letter to My Dog and A Letter to My Cat), A Letter to My Mom is a sweet and touching (and timely, with Mother’s Day just around the corner!) collection of letters from children to their mothers.

What first struck me about the collection is its diversity. There are a fair number of celebrity pairings, yes, but also quite a few letters written by regular folks too. There are letters from children as well as adults; groups of siblings as well as single letter-writers; women and men, girls and boys; adopted as well as biological children; letters addressed to elderly parents as well as middle-aged parents; even a handful written to mothers who have since passed on.

Happily, there’s also a fair amount of racial diversity; while many of the faces are white, there are also Korean, Latina, African-American, Chinese, Indian, Jewish, and Taiwanese mothers and daughters. Some of the most touching letters are from second-generation American immigrants whose mothers left their homelands to pursue the American Dream and give their kids a better life. Trish Broome – the product of a now-failed marriage between a Korean mother and American GI father who met during the Vietnam War – writes of the many sacrifices her mother, Bok Ja Smith, made for her family:

(More below the fold…)

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Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

fuck yeah reading: 2014 books

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

148 books, wow. How ever did I find time to eat or sleep? So many books, so little time.

My absolute favorites are marked with an asterisk, but I’d like to give special shout-outs to (in no particular order):

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If you’re wondering what to read next, wonder no more!

(More below the fold…)

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Monday, December 8th, 2014

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Friday, October 31st, 2014

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Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

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Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

2014 Real Book Challenge: August Roundup

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

All nine of my reads this month were “real” books; this puts me at 44 for the year, which means I surpassed my original goal of 39 books. Yay me! Since I already bumped up my total goal to 101, I decided to increase my Real Books goal to an even 50. Still ahead of the game, yo!


  • The Fever: A Novel by Megan Abbott (2014); reviewed here
  • The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne (2014); reviewed here
  • Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes (2014); reviewed here
  • The Wraith (Welcome to Christmasland #1-6) by Joe Hill and Charles Paul Wilson III (2014); reviewed here
  • Fault Line by Christa Desir (2013); reviewed here
  • The Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks and Caanan White (2014); reviewed here
  • The Half Life of Molly Pierce by Katrina Leno (2014); review coming soon
  • The Chance You Won’t Return by Annie Cardi (2014); review coming soon
  • The Secrets of Life and Death by Rebecca Alexander (2014); review coming soon


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    Saturday, August 30th, 2014

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    Monday, August 25th, 2014

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    Sunday, August 24th, 2014

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    Friday, August 22nd, 2014