Book Review: To Stay Alive: Mary Ann Graves and the Tragic Journey of the Donner Party, Skila Brown (2016)

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

“The men think they’re following a trail … But I know.”

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through NetGalley. Trigger warning for cannibalism and domestic violence.)

There’s only a little gap between rain and snow,
an open window of sunshine to go,
it all must be timed just right
or it will go all wrong,
like a cup of tea that slips
from too hot to too cold
without leaving enough time
in between to drink it.

Imagine.
He almost shot Charles,
thinking he was food.

When you picture the Donner Party, of course cannibalism is the first thing to come to mind. OF COURSE. After all, it’s THE reason this ill-fated expedition made it into the history books: the gruesome lengths that many of the surviving members had to go to to stay alive. And yet murder and cannibalism isn’t where their stories begin, or end. There’s also romance, adventure, and optimism. A can-do spirit and the pursuit of the American Dream. Even if this dream is built on the backs of those who lived here before us.

(Several times, the caravan’s livestock is freed/stolen by “Indians” – who I couldn’t help but root for – and Brown briefly mentions the indigenous populations in the Author’s Note. When the killing starts, it’s the group’s Native American guides who are the first to go.)

In To Stay Alive, Skila Brown reconstructs these events through the eyes of Mary Ann Graves, who was nineteen when she and her family set out from their home in Lacon, Illinois to make a new life California. The already-arduous journey turned deadly when the Donner-Reed Party, as it came to be known, found themselves snowbound in the Sierra Nevada mountains during the winter of 1846-47, just a hundred-odd miles shy of their destination. While the majority of the party made camp next to Truckee Lake in anticipation of the spring thaw, supplies quickly dwindled, and so a small group set out on foot to find help. When they ran out food, they were forced to eat the dead to survive – first those felled by starvation and hypothermia, and then those murdered for food. (I’m not sure how closely To Stay Alive reflects reality, but the whole murdering-people-for-food thing seems a little more controversial IRL.)

To Stay Alive is particularly noteworthy for two reasons: 1) it’s a novel written in verse and 2) its intended audience, which is middle grade readers.

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Book Review: The Wolf Road, Beth Lewis (2016)

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

A thrilling plot + a scrappy antihero + a familiar-yet-not setting = a novel that belongs on the top of your TBR pile!

five out of five stars

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

“Change” was one a’ them words I weren’t too friendly with. Nana told me I had to change when she caught me skinning a rabbit. Man in Ridgeway once told me I’d never get a husband the way I was. Only person never to tell me to change was Kreagar, and that’s because, way he saw it, I was already just the same as him.

Memories ain’t no one’s friend. They show you all the good things you had, all the good things you lost, and don’t let you forget all the bad shit in between.

I kept chewing. No matter what was about to happen, I’d eat as much as I could afore shots fired.

When Elka was seven years old, a freak storm destroyed her two-room shack in the forest beyond Ridgeway. She survived, but was hopelessly lost: the thunderhead deposited Elka – and the table she was clinging to – deep into the Thick Woods. After much wandering, she found a shack even smaller than her nana’s – one with strips of jerky curing on the porch. Starving, Elka swiped some meat, causing the owner of the shack to give chase. Eventually she’d come to think of this man as Trapper, then daddy – for he ultimately took Elka in and raised her as his own, teaching her the ways of the forest: hunting, tracking, trapping, skinning, curing. He showed Elka how to survive in the wild, though she learned little of the human world (“BeeCee”) beyond the trees.

During a rare trip into Dalston, a chance encounter with The Law – in the form of cold-as-ice Magistrate Jennifer Lyon – upends seventeen-year-old Elka’s world yet again: Kreagar Hallet, the man she knows as Trapper, is wanted for the murders of eight women and one child. Her home destroyed – metaphorically and literally burned to the ground by the redcoats – Elka decides to travel north to Halveston (seven hundred miles, give or take!) in search of her parents. They left Elka with her maternal grandmother when she was just a baby so they could find their riches in gold.

Yet Kreagar isn’t willing to let Elka go – and neither is Magistrate Lyon: the former is convinced that Elka dropped the dime on him; the latter, that Elka was involved in the murders. As she makes the treacherous journey north, Elka must evade capture, by enemies both known and not. Bloodthirsty, misogynistic Satanists; human traffickers; lakes made poisonous by nuclear bombs; garden-variety trolls and creepers; cannibals; and – perhaps most alarmingly – human attachments: all stand between Elka and her long-lost parents. Yet with her friends Wolf and Penelope by her side, Elka stands a fighting chance.

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DNF Review: Revenge and the Wild, Michelle Modesto (2016)

Monday, February 1st, 2016

(Full disclosure: I received an electronic ARC for review through Edelweiss.)

The two-bit town of Rogue City is a lawless place, full of dark magic and saloon brawls, monsters and six-shooters. But it’s perfect for seventeen-year-old Westie, the notorious adopted daughter of local inventor Nigel Butler.

Westie was only a child when she lost her arm and her family to cannibals on the wagon trail. Nine years later, Westie may seem fearsome with her foul-mouthed tough exterior and the powerful mechanical arm built for her by Nigel, but the memory of her past still haunts her. She’s determined to make the killers pay for their crimes—and there’s nothing to stop her except her own reckless ways.

But Westie’s search ceases when a wealthy family comes to town looking to invest in Nigel’s latest invention, a machine that can harvest magic from gold—which Rogue City desperately needs as the magic wards that surround the city start to fail. There’s only one problem: the investors look exactly like the family who murdered Westie’s kin. With the help of Nigel’s handsome but scarred young assistant, Alistair, Westie sets out to prove their guilt. But if she’s not careful, her desire for revenge could cost her the family she has now.

(Synopsis via Goodreads.)

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Book Review: City of Savages, Lee Kelly (2015)

Monday, May 4th, 2015

A Wild Ride through Post-Apocalyptic Manhattan

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review from the publisher. Trigger warning for rape and violence.)

Somehow this ruthless city is home to my sister. Where for me, it will never, ever be more than a cage.

If no one’s out there, then what’s keeping us in?

Sisters Skyler and Phoenix Miller were born and raised in Manhattan; from the wild forests of Central Park to the gleaming glass apartments in Battery Park, the island is the only home they’ve ever known. But their home is also their prison. Along with several hundred fellow survivors, Sky and Phee are prisoners of war: World War III, in which the Red Allies (China, North Korea, and Russia) simultaneously attacked New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and San Francisco, with the ultimate goal of conquering the United States. That was more than sixteen years ago, in March of 2016, and still the war rages on.

When Manhattan was first attacked, a lucky few survivors found safety in the subway tunnels – including their mother, Sarah. But as the months dragged on and supplies dwindled, many of the refugees were forced to the surface, to beg the Red Allies for mercy. Though most of the men were shot on sight, the women and children were imprisoned in cages once meant for lions and tigers: the Central Park Zoo, now transformed into an internment camp.

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Book Review: Eating Sarah, Jaret Martens (2014)

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Not My Cuppa Grey Matter

two out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free e-copy of this book for review through Library Thing’s Early Reviewers program. Also, there are some clearly marked spoilers towards the end of this review.)

Ever since she was a kid, all Sarah wanted to do was participate in the Hunt. Every month, guided by the light of the moon, the adults of their forest colony raid the nearby city in search of food: human captives to be harvested and consumed. But food has been harder and harder to come by, causing Robert – the leader of the colony – to unexpectedly lower the required age of participation from nineteen to seventeen. And, just like that, Sarah is thrust into the Hunt two years ahead of schedule.

Her excitement turns to horror, however, as the forest folk run into what quickly becomes a massacre. Sarah manages to escape with her life, but just barely. She returns to chaos in the colony; during the Hunt, someone murdered Robert, branding his flesh with a bite mark calling card. Robert is only the first of many murders, as more and more of the cannibals turn up dead. When an entire town embraces murder as a way of life, identifying one killer among many is a challenging task indeed.

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Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, No. 26: Milk Thieves, Body Hair, and the Cannibals Within

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

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Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary: A Powerful Statement

This stunning sculpture by Liu Qiang is an accurate depiction of humanity’s use of, and utter dependence on other animals and, in particular, the savage and bizarre habit of consuming the breast milk from mothers of other species-milk that these mothers have produced for their own babies, babies that we forced them to become pregnant with only to kill shortly after birth so that we can take the bereft mother’s milk, milk that we drink as though we were the children that we murdered.

Live vegan. There is no excuse not to.

Learn about non-violent living
Learn who is spared when you live vegan…
…and who suffers when you choose not to:
Milk Comes from a Grieving Mother
Dairy is a Death Sentence
The “Humane” Animal Farming Myth

29h59’59 by Liu Qiang is on exhibition at the 798 Art District in Beijing, China
Photo by Ng Han Guan

VegNews: June Twitter Chat, Wednesday, June 20 @ 6pm PT/9pm ET

In honor of LGBT Pride Month, we’ll be talking with prominent gay animal-rights activists about the connection between both movements. Never participated in a Twitter Chat before? Don’t worry. We have a handy guide to explain it all. Join us at the hashtag #VegNewsChat. You don’t even need to have a Twitter account to enjoy the discussion.

Kaili Joy Gray @ Daily Kos: Safeway’s general counsel tells hilarious sexist joke at annual shareholder meeting

You can listen to the audio at the link above, but here’s a transcript for the a/v averse:

You know, this is the season when companies and other institutions are interested in enhancing their reputation and their image for the general public, and one of the institutions that’s doing this is the Secret Service, particularly after the calamity in Colombia. And among the instructions given to the Secret Service agents was to try to agree with the president more and support his decisions. And that led to this exchange that took place last week, when the president flew into the White House lawn and an agent greeted him at the helicopter.

The president was carrying two pigs under his arms and the Secret Service agents said, “Nice pigs, sir.”

And the president said, “These are not ordinary pigs, these are genuine Arkansas razorback hogs. I got one for former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and one for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.”

And the Secret Service agent said, “Excellent trade, sir.”

Women as livestock. Nonhuman animals as items of trade. Sexism and speciesism, the stuff of high comedy. TAKE MY LAWYER, PLEASE!

Fat Girl Posing: Vegans.. I need to talk to you..

This is a year-old piece about fat shaming in the vegan community that recently recirculated on Facebook. h/t to Emelda (I think).

The whole piece is worth a read, but here’s the excerpt I posted on FB:

So here’s your strategy, right? Animal products are full of fat and calories and, therefore, if you stop eating them you’ll lose weight.. so, market veganism as a diet or “lifestyle change” will bring more people to the movement by preying on their low self esteem and body hatred. While the strategy may work initially what do you intend to do when all the newbie veg’s don’t lose weight? Or when they lose it but then gain it back? As a diet, it fails, just like any other, and you’ve lost your pull. More so, you’ve become part of an industry which is cruel to animals.. specifically the human animal.

Word.

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Sweeney Todd, a Caged Bird and the Devil’s Wife

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Sweeney Todd movie poster 07

Caution: spoilers ahead!

Normally, I’m not one for musicals (Little Shop of Horrors and Grease notwithstanding!). That said, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street struck my fancy right away. Now, I could attribute this to the film’s macabre, Gothic Victorian setting, or to the dynamic star/director duo of Johnny Depp and Tim Burton; and, while these are both ginormous positives, I’d be lying if I said that either of these is what compelled me to dabble in a genre I tend to pass up. Nope, as much as I love a Goth Depp/Burton vehicle, Sweeney Todd reeled this vegan misanthrope in with promises of cannibalism. Cannibalism is the shit.

Sweeney Todd opens with the titular character’s arrival in London. “Return to London,” actually: in a former life, Sweeney Todd was one Benjamin Barker (also a barber). But we’ll get to Barker’s story in a moment.

We first meet Sweeney Todd as he and a young sailor dock in a London port. Whereas Todd’s traveling companion, Anthony, marvels at the beauty of London, Sweeney will have none of it. His gloomy, sullen mood sets the tone for the rest of the film: shades of black, gray and blue, colored only by the red crimson of blood spilt.

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"I have always loved Harry’s ribs!"

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

CSI smiley logo

Caution: Spoilers ahead.

The second-to-last episode of CSI in 2009 featured a particularly animal-friendly plot line. I say “particularly” rather than “surprisingly” because CSI has a longstanding track record of treating animals and animal advocacy issues with a modicum of respect – a practice which stands in sharp contrast to similar crime shows like Law & Order. (See, for example, Veg*nism & Pop Culture: But does Costa Rica have an extradition treaty? and Veg*nism & Pop Culture: Sara Sidle: From CSI to Terra-ist.)

Season 10, Episode 9 (Appendicitement) saw the CSI team investigating not one, but two separate murders, both of which occurred on the premises of a BBQ joint. Since IMDB has a decent writeup of the episode, I’ll let them take it away:

There are two twisty tales in Vegas tonight. Strike that, one in Vegas and one outside.

The first tale concerns lab tech Henry. Greg, Nick, and Hodges literally kidnap Henry on his birthday to take him to this great barbecue place up the road apiece called Harry’s Hog Hideout.* On the way there a crazy lady runs them off the road and the car rolls. Fortunately, none of them is seriously injured but Nick’s car is out of commission. With no cell service, they decide to walk the last little bit to Harry’s but, unfortunately, when they arrive they discover it’s been closed for seven months due to a Hepatitis outbreak. They decide to poke around and see if there’s a working phone inside.

Instead they find a dead body, a man with a raccoon attached to his face.

While Henry, disgruntled about his crummy birthday, hangs with the dead guy Hodges and Greg poke around outside. They figure out that the guy lured the raccoon to a nearby barrel and tried to kill him by filling the barrel with ethylene gas and blowing him up. The explosion threw the raccoon and the guy through the window of Harry’s. So it was an accident.

Meanwhile, Nick looks for a phone and it’s not working. He returns to the scene just as another guy shows up and pulls a gun on Henry. They make it clear that they’re cops and the guy, Slick explains that the dead guy was Gomez the cook at Harry’s, who was generally a good guy.

(Emphasis and asterisks mine, of course.)

Initially – and in breaking with the show’s usual treatment of such cases – the CSI investigators exhibit disappointingly little concern for the dead raccoon. Personally, I am lacking in sympathy for people who inadvertently blow themselves up while trying to lure a sentient being into a trap, only to torch him alive. Killing “nuisance” animals – especially when there are humane, catch-and-release options available – is bad enough; plotting to light them on fire while still alive and fully conscious is downright sadistic. Unfortunately, the CSI team doesn’t voice any of these thoughts – that is, until much later in the show.

Once the plot unfolds and the bodies are transported back to the lab, coroner David Phillips expresses grief at the raccoon’s demise. I can’t recall what exactly was said (nor did I think to save the episode on my DVR so that I might type up a transcript – doh!), but I believe that David muttered something about the human getting what he deserved and referred to the raccoon as an innocent bystander.

In other words, all is well in the Las Vegas crime lab!

Alas, we still have one body to account for…

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Rachachuros Seasoning, Redux: Zombie Cannibal "Meat"!

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

As a follow-up to last week’s Sexy Meat post, I bring you another series of advertisements for Rachachuros Seasoning.

(Courtesy of Ben at Suicide Food, who covered these ads last year. Timely, I am not.)

Rachachuros Seasoning - Chicken 2

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Kinship Circle: LETTER / Abandoned Dogs Resort To Cannibalism In TN Case

Monday, December 18th, 2006

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Kinship Circle – info [at] kinshipcircle.org
Date: Dec 18, 2006 3:57 PM
Subject: LETTER/ Abandoned Dogs Resort To Cannibalism In TN Case

Kinship Circle Primary – PERMISSION TO CROSS-POST AS WRITTEN
(Please do not delete identity/disclaimer information)

12/18/06 – Abandoned Dogs Resort To Cannibalism In TN Case
KINSHIP CIRCLE ACTION CAMPAIGN
http://www.KinshipCircle.org

SOURCE OF INFORMATION:
Tennessee Man Said to Have Abandoned Dogs to Starve, Die: Support Prosecutor as Case Heads to Court
http://www.peta.org/actioncenter/ActionAlerts-item.asp?id=2098

================================

SAMPLE LETTER

Feel free to use portions of our letter, but please add some original thoughts. Hundreds of identical letters may lessen the impact.

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