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Review: The Final Girl Support Group

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The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix My rating: 4 of 5 stars Hendrix's novel is an intriguing romp through slasher films of the 1980s-1990s seen through the eyes of the final girls (the "girls" that survived the slashers). It's decades later and they run a closed support group, processing everything that has happened to them (the incidents themselves and also, the media circus that continues to haunt them).  But now, a slasher has arrived on the scene and is attempting to pick off the women one by one. Lynnette, an outsider, even among the "final" women is the only one who can see it coming but none of the others seem willing to believe her--and it doesn't help that she was largely discredited when her computer was hacked, the others find out that she's possibly betrayed them.  It's a fun narrative that keeps you guessing about who is the slasher, who is the prey, and how it is all going to end.

Review: Billy Summers

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Billy Summers by Stephen King My rating: 3 of 5 stars King delivers a new novel that diverges from his traditional realm of horror and supernatural and into a tale of suspense and crime.  Within that, King also flexes his literary chops in ways that are both familiar and enjoyable.  The story, as King reminds readers throughout, is the typical "last gig" crime story wherein hitman, Billy Summers, is set to do a final kill before disappearing forever.  And just like every other story, this one does not go as planned.  Summers is set up to take out a hitman while pretending to be a writer in a nowhere town but Summers keeps getting the sense that nothing is on the up and up and so plans accordingly to avoid ending up in a ditch.  The tale is a bit of cat and mouse, with Summers sometimes the cat and sometimes the mouse.  It's an enjoyable tale for anyone who likes thrillers or King in general.  What's interesting is how much me

Review: Work Won't Love You Back: How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, Exhausted, and Alone

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Work Won't Love You Back: How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, Exhausted, and Alone by Sarah Jaffe My rating: 4 of 5 stars Jaffe's tour of the working world is filled with keen insights and considerations about work as the center of most of our attention along with the unending ways we will sacrifice our mental and physical selves in order to be productive for work because there is rarely any other possibility. Through a series of chapters, she explores how work is construed and experienced in different industries from K-12 elementary to nonprofits to artists to babysitting/childcare to retail to technology to sports and even internships. It's a fascinating consideration of the similarities of disfunction that transcends all of these industries. Each industry thrives by preying upon people who are interested and often, excited about the work, and that excitement is used against them to eke more and more from them in terms

Review: Everyman

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Everyman by M Shelly Conner My rating: 4 of 5 stars This book has a flavor of Toni Morrison though with brevity and style that reminds me of Alice Walker (more Meridian than The Color Purple ).  It also has a particularly interesting vibe when thinking about the story in the context of the last few years as well as the rise of DNA tracking.  Eve Mann is trying to find her roots, particularly her mother, Mercy. Raised by her aunt, Ann Man in the North in the 1960s and early 1970s, she has never been able to get from her the truth about her mom and much of her family. At 22, she sets off on a pilgrimage to go to the town in Georgia named, Ideal. The story is so very little about Eve going to find her family and more about the stories and experiences that led Eve to arrive there.  Conner weaves together these different threads into a tapestry that captures the power of racism, naming, and kin. It's definitely the kind of story that one finds themselves le

Recently Featured Short-Short Story: Your Future Destination

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Estimated Reading Time: minutes A few months ago, there was a call for short-short stories (500 words or less) from New_ Public that explore technology and society in some interesting way. A short-short that I had written in the previous year came immediately to mind.  Well, I found out last week that it would be featured and accompanied with some art to capture the story in some way.  It was published on Sunday, October 31 (fairly appropriately given the story) and I figured I would share it here for your enjoyment as well. Your Future Destination My future arrived on a Thursday. Future Destination knew when and where I needed to go. Silicon Valley showered it with accolades as the second coming of the wheel or rather, the second coming of the FAANG; after all, the wheel yielded to gravity, but anticipated auto arrival (A³ in tech lingo talk) yielded to unspoken human desire; the profit possibilities were infinite. They scooped up business, municipal, state, and federal driving con

Review: How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America

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How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith My rating: 5 of 5 stars History is grounded in the stories we tell and the artifacts and places that we preserve. What does it mean to look for and uncover history that is both in plain sight but also obscured by the stories that we tell? That is the question that Smith explores in this book. His book is both a journey across the country (even the world) that opens up newer understandings about the power of storytelling and place and serves as its own metaphorical "green book" about historical sites willing to lean into their racist backdrops and those that avidly avoid it.  Through the book, Smith visits places like Monticello, the Whitney Plantation (a museum of slavery), Blandford Cemetery (a Confederate cemetery), Angola Prison, Galveston, Texas (home of the first Juneteenth celebrations), New York City (Slavery & the Underground Railroad Walkin

Review: On Juneteenth

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On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed My rating: 4 of 5 stars Part memoir, part history, and part cultural excavation, Gordon-Reeds' collective essays about both her personal history and the history of Texas through the lives of people from marginalized groups (Black people, women, Native Americans) end "on Juneteenth", the culmination of history, exile, and healing.  It's a powerful way to explain how Gordon-Reed balances both the big cultural idea of "Texas" in its own and in US history, coupled with her own fondness for the state while simultaneously recognizing how exclusionary it has been to her and other Black people.  The essays traverse from her experience growing up in a slowly and reluctantly (and legally mandated) desegregated school system to how childhood play of "Cowboys and Indians" replicated the U.S. and Texan culture about who were the true Texans and who were disposable.  In total, the es

Review: Extra Life: A Short History of Living Longer

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Extra Life: A Short History of Living Longer by Steven Johnson My rating: 4 of 5 stars Johnson returns with another enjoyable and intriguing exploration that considers what are the factors in the last few hundred years that have led to a near doubling of human life. It's not an extensive history nor a history that explores this through the genius model of history (a history that frames it in the solitary figures who did "great deeds"). Rather, Johnson delivers a network history that explores the conditions and structures that created the changes in thinking to introduce practices, tools, and advocates to widened the Overton Window (the range of socially acceptable ideas around a subject) to include these newer ideas.  That's not to say he ignores the more well-known names but places them in a larger context that shows how without other elements, they would not have been able to help shift the paradigm.  Beyond that, Johnson's book prov

Review: No Study Without Struggle: Confronting Settler Colonialism in Higher Education

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No Study Without Struggle: Confronting Settler Colonialism in Higher Education by Leigh Patel My rating: 5 of 5 stars It's a compelling critique about higher education as a place that extends the settler-colonial mentality and practices of ownership, particularly the concept of creditors and debtors. It feels timely and relevant given a range of cultural clashes within higher education over the last decade, not to mention how schools have approached the entire pandemic and student, staff, and faculty safety--often interested in protecting the "investment" of the "live experience" over meaningful support of people in crisis at numerous levels. In essence, Patel asks how the legacy of the European invasion of the Americas, Africa, and Asia has been reinforced through concepts of property, many of which are baked into higher education. For instance, she draws out the ways in which older institutions (particularly Ivy Leagues) thrive thr

Review: Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works

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Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works by Evelyn Tribole My rating: 4 of 5 stars First and foremost, this is not a "diet" book and it's not a book to resolve issues about your unhappiness with your weight, per se. That's made evident repeatedly throughout the book that their goal is not to help you lose weight. That, I think is one of the book's most powerful and important messages and hope that others will understand what they are trying to do.  The entire framework of the book settles on the belief (and mounting evidence) that part of the problem with body image, eating disorders, and feeling unhealthy in our bodies stems in part from a loss of listening to our bodies express what they need and acting on it.  The authors draw out a wide range of ways this happens, emphasizing the issues through specific anecdotes and research. The book contains a lot and definitely recommend taking it in (get ready for a b