Book Review: “The Postscript Murders” by Elly Griffiths

The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Many thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC in exchange for an honest review!

I adore the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths so I was delighted to learn that she is writing a series surrounding Harbinder Kaur. I enjoyed “The Stranger Diaries,” and particularly liked DS Kaur’s Indian-British family. Revisiting her world was a treat for me as a reader.

Like “The Stranger Diaries,” this was a book about murder based on books about murder. Writers and fans of crime fiction die at an alarming rate in this book. Kaur is there for the professional investigation but there is also a quirky band of misfits who live the not-so-secret dream every fan of crime fiction has: to solve the crime themselves. Natalka, Benedict, and Edwin are a delightful trio and I hope they come back in future books.

This story was a fun peek behind the curtain of the publishing industry. When an author dies, editors, publicists, and other authors are all suspects. I enjoyed all the explanations of what it takes to make a book a bestseller.

If this book has a weakness, it’s that Kaur tells us about the solutions to the mysteries after she has figured them out. I would have preferred that Griffiths show us the crime-solving with more detail instead of just giving us a look into Kaur’s thought process. But perhaps that was the whole point: where crime fiction makes everything exciting, it all really happens inside an author’s head.

All in all, this is a mystery that’s a touch beyond cozy but not too grim or gory. It’s fun and smart with characters you’ll miss when it’s over.

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Everything I Have Ever Wanted To Say To An Anti-Vaxxer (With F-Bombs)

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You can’t make me get a vaccine!

You’re right. I can’t. But you need to know that you are a potential transmitter of vaccine-preventable illnesses and behave accordingly.

Keep your fucking germs to yourself. Avoid babies, immune-compromised people, the elderly, and me because I’m an asshole who will tell you exactly what I think. You won’t enjoy that.

Stop trying to make me feel guilty about not getting vaccines!

I can’t make you feel any kinda way. In my experience, guilty feelings mean you know you did something wrong. They don’t show up if you’re in the right.

If you accused me of killing puppies, I wouldn’t feel any guilt because I know I never killed a puppy. If you accused me of shoplifting a Wet’n’Wild eyeliner sometime in the 1980s, I would feel guilty as hell. Because I totally did that.

If you feel guilty about not getting vaccinated, maybe it’s because you know you’re perpetuating a public health problem. How does that make your feel, Typhoid Mary?

I don’t want to put chemicals in my child’s body!

Oh, just fucking stop. The FDA is the agency that approves vaccines. It also approves the ingredients in your kid’s breakfast cereal that they put in their body every damn day. If you trust Lucky Charms or Cheerios, trust vaccines as well.

You know what’s not approved by any agency? Dietary supplements. All those vitamins you bought from your friend working for a pyramid scheme are way less regulated than vaccines or breakfast cereal. Hell, even dog food gets more review than dietary supplements but you suck those down without a second thought.

Be smarter.

Its not my responsibility to protect other people’s health!

Yes, it fucking is. You already do it every day. You cook food to a safe temperature so you don’t give everyone intestinal worms from an undercooked pork roast. You wash your hands after your poop so you don’t wipe bacteria from feces all over creation. You sneeze into your elbow so you don’t give your co-workers your cold.

We all look out for each other but most of us are good people who don’t resent doing it.

Vaccines cause autism/sterility/microchips/other nonsense!

OMFG, are you really that dense? Tell me if you are so I can avoid you forever.

These RNA covid vaccines will change our DNA!

You have been watching way too many X-Files reruns. Seriously, that doesn’t make any sense. Why would drug makers change our DNA on purpose? And if they wanted to do that, why do it with a vaccine that has to go through a rigorous approval? Why not do it with those stupid fucking dietary supplements that don’t go through any review process?

Vaccines to change DNA is like something Dr. Doofenschmirtz would come up with and he always gets stopped by a fucking platypus.

The mRNA vaccines don’t change DNA. End of fucking story.

This is my personal choice!

Yep. It’s a choice. Choices have consequences. The consequences of vaccine refusal are susceptibility to deadly diseases and the overt scorn of your fellow humans.

Live with your choice.

Even with a covid vaccine, people can still transmit the virus!

That might be true. We don’t know yet. But scientists are working their asses off to figure that out. Scientists love figuring that shit out. It’s why they became scientists.

The vaccine might not send enough antibodies to the inside of your nose so if you snort some covid, it will hang out there for a while and multiply. You might be able to sneeze it at people during that time. Once it gets further into your body, the antibodies will get it so you won’t get sick from it.

The good news is that a vaccinated person can walk through a cloud of airborne covid and not end up on a ventilator. Unlike an unvaccinated person. Those folks are totally unprotected.

But don’t worry. Once the rest of us get vaccinated, the ICU will have a lot more free beds for your dumb anti-vax ass.

Get the Vaccine or Stay Home

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A gazillion years ago, I worked for the American Cancer Society. A few times each year, we hosted events for volunteers, many of whom were cancer survivors.

Now, cancer treatment is no walk in the park and one of the unpleasant realities of it is that your natural immune system can be blasted to hell by chemo or radiation. This was a concern for some volunteers who would come to our events. We always had to be cognizant of that and minimize their risks of getting sick while they were at our events. See, a viral illness that was no threat to a healthy person could be a catastrophe for someone with a compromised immune system. A cold could become pneumonia which could become life threatening.

One of the things I recall about doing these events was accommodating people who didn’t feel safe eating a meal served from a buffet. Between the shared serving utensils and people breathing (or potentially coughing and sneezing) around the food, it was too big a risk.

Anyway, the moral of the story was that we would arrange for plated meals for people who needed to avoid buffets. It was no big deal and everyone was happy.

I used to get really fired up thinking about would happen if these folks were exposed to vaccine-preventable illnesses. Cancer treatment can mess with vaccine-acquired immunity so they were at risk of catching something like measles or rubella. Those illnesses can kill otherwise healthy people. I don’t want to imagine a person with a chemo-ravaged immune system trying to fight off measles.

Or covid-19.

People get real weird about vaccines. I don’t want to get into the weeds of vaccine arguments. I’ll simply say that unless you have a known medical condition that precludes you from getting vaccines, refusing to get vaccines is a bullshit move based on bullshit information circulated by people who are chock full of bullshit. Vaccines exist to stop the rampant spread of deadly diseases. Refusing vaccines means you choose to be part of increasing contagion of vaccine-preventable illness.

People who refuse vaccines are the ones who get diseases like measles and spread their pestilence around and risk the lives of MOTHERFUCKING CANCER SURVIVORS.

We’re about a week from access to a vaccine that has great results in protecting people from covid-19. I’m totally gonna get it when it’s my turn. I can’t wait. Not only will it reduce my own risk of covid-19, it will reduce my risk of giving it to someone who is immune-compromised and can’t be vaccinated.

Some people aren’t going to get the vaccine and I have a message for them: STAY THE FUCK HOME YOU COVID TRANSMITTING GERM BOMB.

Oh, what’s that? You don’t want a brand new vaccine? You saw some YouTube video that says vaccines cause sterility? Or read a post from a white lady with an associates degree in communications who sells essential oils on Facebook and she says the RNA in the vaccine will change your chromosomes and your future children will have gills?

Yeah, STFU with that. I don’t care.

If you’re not immune, you’re a risk. You could be incubating covid at any moment. You could have an asymptomatic case. You’re the disease vector. You’re the Typhoid Mary of the covid. You are the serving spoon on the buffet that is too germy for a cancer survivor to touch.

This virus is sneaky and dangerous. That long incubation phase and the asymptomatic carriers are the reason we’re all on lockdown: anyone can be contagious and not know it.

If you don’t get the vaccine, that will still be true for you. Your risk of getting or spreading covid-19 won’t change.

Unvaccinated people will need to continue acting like potential spreaders for the indefinite future. You need to keep the masks and the travel restrictions and the 6-foot distance from people.

Don’t shake hands. Don’t hug. Don’t go to a concert. Don’t sing in church.

And for the love of all things holy, PLEASE don’t kiss your newborn niece. You could have covid! Babies can’t be vaccinated! Are you trying to kill her?

Life will return to normal as more and more people get vaccinated1. But unvaccinated people should decline to participate in normal life because you are still potentially contagious. The pandemic is not going to end for you the way it will end for people who have gotten a vaccine. You can still get sick and you can still make other people – vulnerable people – sick as well.

I can’t make you believe science. I can’t force you to get a vaccine.

But if you don’t get the vaccine? Stay home and save lives.

1Yes, I know the science is still pending on whether the first generation of vaccines reduce transmission risk. But you know what? Even when we get a vaccine that absolutely, positively does prevent transmission? Anti-vax people still won’t get it. So my message stands.

Book Review: “The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue” by V. E. Schwab

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh, what a joy this story turned out to be. A book about a woman who traded immortality for memorability, I expected a long walk through history. Instead, it was a tale of languid personal discovery. Addie LaRue only wanted to escape a terrible marriage so she offered her soul to an old god. He expected to collect his payment in short order but she played the player at his own game.

What would you do with 300 years to experience the world? And what would you sacrifice when you finally fall in love after centuries of life? Addie had to make those choices in a story that will I’ll not forget.

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Book Review: “The Once and Future Witches” by Alix Harrow

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I want the words and the ways for myself. It’s 2020 so most women have the will.

This is an alternate history where witchcraft rises again after Salem. Women (and a few men) tired of the abuses of powerful men, factory foremen, abusing fathers and husbands, religious zealot, and white men in general, begin to reclaim their powers. Witchcraft envelopes the social movements of the 1890s: suffrage, workers rights, civil rights, religious freedom.

The action rises and falls more times than you think it should but the power of the story doesn’t burn out. You want to mount a broom and follow the witches wherever they go, just to see women gain the upper hand for once.

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Book Review: “Only Ever Yours” by Louise O’Neill and “The Catherine House” by Elisabeth Thomas

Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

I have a insatiable draw to dystopian stories. I also have an insatiable draw toward stories set at strange boarding schools with dark secrets. I reach the pinnacle of those genres when I read “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro. I’ve been chasing the breathtaking high of that book ever since.

Both “The Catherine House” by Elisabeth Thomas and “Only Ever Yours” by Louise O’Neill took me close to the place that Ishiguro arrived at with his stunning dystopia. All three of the books deal with themes of science, survival, and progress. Each of the protagonists is a woman drafted into the role of experimental subject through no fault of her own. And without her consent.

“In Only Ever Yours”, we follow a girl in a post-climate-apolypse world, where women aren’t born; they’re designed in a lab to be perfect specimens for the pleasure of men. They are trained only to be beautiful and willing. They can’t read, they can’t do math, but they are ornamental and undemanding. They may be called upon to bear sons for the good of the world. Or they could be sent “Underground” to an undescribed fate.

On the flip side, “The Catherine House” is a set at a mysterious college where a specially selected group of student are granted the gift of knowledge and the promise of worldly success. In exchange they are cloistered for three years in the college that is studying “new materials” that could revolutionize everything. But the price of attendance is participation in the grand experiment.

In the end, neither the knowledge nor the ignorance is a saving grace for these women. Being what society wants isn’t enough to prevent society from turning on you. In each of these books, I saw a plausible outcome for what happens when your world rejects you. Both endings will keep me up at night.

#bookstagram #bookish #bookworm #bookreview 📚

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Book Review: “The House on the Cerulean Sea” by T.J. Klune

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“The House on the Cerulean Sea” by TJ Klune is a Valentine to everyone who has found their corner in the world and thrived once they accepted the love that there.

Linus Baker is a caseworker assigned to look into an orphanage for magical children. He leaves his dull – if somewhat cozy – routine and finds himself on an island filled lovable misfits.

From there what else can happen but a love story? Well, several concurrent love stories really. A romance, a family love story, the love of new friends, love for a place.

This book piles love upon love and any reader will close the covers of this sweet little story better for having visiting this fanciful world where magic and love come together.

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Why Voting Third Party is Electoral Masturbation

Yeah. I said what I said. Voting for the Greens or the Libertarians or writing in some high-minded alternative candidate is a worthless gesture that serves only to pleasure the person doing it.

Somewhere, a hipster dude in a jaunty hat is sputtering “But, but, but you don’t know what point I am trying to make!” Let me assure you, I do know. And your point may even be a good one. But you tactic is useless and won’t advance your point in any way.

Let’s unpack this shall we?

Some people vote for the actual so-called third parties like the Green Party or the Libertarian Party because they swear up and down that they believe in the ideals of those two organizations. I say those two organizations are not really political parties and they are not really participating in the process of government. All they do is show up every four years and demand attention by mounting a weak candidate for president. If you really want to make a third party a national force, run for mayor as a Green. Run for city council as Libertarian. Develop a state-level organization and prove you have the chops to govern.

We have only two viable parties because all the other parties are spoiled babies who won’t put in the work to compete. Build a functional movement or get out of the way.

Some people say they hate the system of nominating candidates and want to change it by writing in their preferences. Except that your ballot is basically a scan-tron form that gets run through a computer and then packed away. Your name isn’t even on it. Only you know what you did.

No election official is reading your ballot and saying “Great Scott! This person has an incredible point to make about the structure of American elections! I must take this to the others so we can revolutionize the process!”

If you want to change nominating processes you need to lobby your state board of elections and state legislature for changes to the process for getting people on the ballot. The ballot itself isn’t a substitute for doing real, effective advocacy work.

Some people just haaaaaaate both candidate so much that they can’t deal with the idea of voting for either of them.

I wish I could remember where I saw this, but a Black woman addressed this point by saying something like “When exactly do you think Black women have had the luxury of being excited about a candidate? We always just suck it up and vote for the person who will do us the least harm.”

Now, you night say that your protest vote candidate is the candidate who will do the least harm and I say YEAH, BECAUSE THEY WILL NEVER HOLD OFFICE. They will never have the opportunity to make policy. A responsible voter will narrow the choices based first on viability, then assess which is the greatest threat to civil and humans right, and then vote against that person. An irresponsible person puts their own feelings ahead of the greater good and votes for that college professor they remember loving in 1994 or some equally self-indulgent thing.

There are a lot of ways to agitate for change in America and I’m a big cheerleader for protest movements, advocacy efforts, and policy making. But voting for a non-viable candidate is none of those things and it won’t accomplish anything at all. It won’t free detainees at the border, it won’t change criminal justice policy, it won’t protect Roe v. Wade, and it won’t address corruption in the federal government.

Your protest vote is just electoral masturbation and you’re the only one who will get anything out of it.

Photo by Element5 Digital from Pexels

Memories of Debates Past

I wrote this in 2012 after the Biden/Ryan VP debate. It remains one of my favorite things that I have ever written.


Martha Raddatz: Welcome to the only vice presidential debate. This will be a discussion between two guys who will be one bullet away from the Presidency. What they say will probably never matter. In an ideal world everyone will be polite and no one will indulge in Palin-esque winking. We have a lot to cover tonight so I hope both candidates can stick to the time limits for answering questions. Agreed?

Joe Biden: Not a chance

Paul Ryan: Yeah, there’s no way.

MR: OK, then. Let’s get started. I’d like to talk about foreign policy…

JB: Booyah! Foreign policy! Bring it! I chaired the Foreign Relations committee for a long freaking time! I related to foreign countries while my “friend” here was learning about them in geography class!

PR: Did you just use air quotes when you said friend? So uncool.

JB: Whatevs. I’ve been in the situation room. I get CIA briefings. I’m a foreign policy badass. You look like a white kid with a Eurail pass and a backpack trying to score with hot Scandinavian girls.

PR: Sha. As if. Your foreign policy is a hot mess. You won’t even call people terrorists. What kind of American doesn’t accuse anyone and everyone on foreign soil of terrorism?

JB: I’m over here.

PR: I know. But the camera is over there and I need to gaze into it with a sincere look on my face.

MR: Gentlemen, let’s move along to unemployment. It’s a big problem facing our nation, you know.

JB: Is this where I talk about being from Scranton?

PR: Yeah, and I bring up Janesville.

JB: No one knows where Janesville is. Everyone knows about Scranton because I’ve been name dropping it since you were in diapers.

PR: Name dropping it hasn’t fixed its unemployment rate. Janesville has less unemployment than Scranton.

JB: Because of the shit-ton of stimulus money you begged for. You’re welcome, by the way.

PR: I’m not a hypocrite!

JB: Did I say you were?

MR: Next up, let’s talk a little about entitlement programs. Social Security and Medicare. What’s next for those programs?

PR: Slash and burn them! Private sector! Vouchers! Money money money!

JB: What the hell was that? Was that like supply-side fugue state thing? You make no sense and you’re pulling the plug on grandma only not grandma today, grandma 30 years from now.

PR: No, I’m not.

JB: You totally are.

PR: Nuh-uh. I’m doing what Reagan did.

JB: Dude. I was in the room when Reagan did his Social Security thing. Remember? Oh right. You were at recess. Or was it snack time at your elementary school?

MR: ::eye twitches:: Maybe we should talk about the wars…

JB: My son fought in the wars.

PR: ::mutters:: We know. Is he from Scranton too?

JB: Shut up or I’ll bring up my late wife and daughter who died in a car wreck.

PR: Fine. Let me tell you about my trip to Afghanistan where I met with many generals and learned many important things about military strategy. I also learned how to pronounce the names of many Afghan towns and regions. I’ll recite them all if you want.

JB: I know them already. Because of all my foreign policy experience.

PR: Well, those places are dangerous. We need more troops there!

JB: You are a fucking idiot. You want to send more Americans to be killed in a hostile environment in a country that doesn’t want us there and is actively killing our personnel? Fuck that noise. We’re out in 2014. End of story.

PR: Why do you hate the military?

JB: Why are you hell-bent on killing them off? You want to go to war in Syria and Iran and stay in Afghanistan.

PR: We believe in peace through strength.

JB: Nice talking point, bro.

PR: Thanks. Wrote it myself!

JB: Figures.

MR: Ok, we’re almost outta time. And I need a drink so let’s talk religion and abortion for a minute then hit the bar across the street.

PR: I love Jesus and hate abortion.

JB: I also love Jesus. But I love getting the women’s vote too so I’m down with legal access to abortion even though I don’t like abortion myself.

MR: And closing statements.

JB: You cannot elect this clown and his buddy Mittens. They suck. Barack and I get you. We do. Really we do. I’m from Scranton and know people just like you. So, I know what you want and I’ll make sure Barack does it. It just might take a while.

PR: Mitt and I will make you totally rich if you vote for us.

MR: Thank you and good night.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Donald Trump And The Existential Fear Of Being A Loser

There was an article in the days before the 2016 election that described Trump, sitting on his plane, watching the coverage of the race and saying only “I’m going to win.”

That phrase – I’m going to win – seemed to me like the main motivator for Trump. It was the winning that interested him. The role of president, the opportunity to serve, the responsibility to the American people, even the power were all secondary to winning. He is a trophy collector and he believed that the White House was the ultimate trophy.

Four years later, he still doesn’t care about the work or the responsibility of the job. That has been made abundantly clear by his utter failure to engage in stopping a pandemic from killing our populace. I do think Trump has developed a taste for the power of the presidency, especially the parts that translate into dollars or accolades. However, I think the winning is still the driving force for him. The need to be a winner is hardwired into his sense of self like no other impulse.

The fear of losing, of being a loser, and having to admit it is the impetus behind everything Trump is doing and saying right now. I believe when he envisions a loss on November 3, Trump doesn’t think about how it will feel to turn over the reins of the country. He won’t feel regret about things left undone. He just doesn’t want to be the loser in a contest or give up a prize he believes he deserves.

That idea of “presidency as prize” is the reason he has been so bad at the job. The substance of it never occurred to him. He is not a student of history or government and he has no innate drive to be a public servant. He wanted it like he wanted a golf trophy. A shiny object, something he could show off to others whom he wanted to impress. Unfortunately, “others” ended up meaning Putin. That’s who he wants to impress and also who he wants to emulate. An unquestioned leader who gets his way simply by virtue of holding the title

Today, four years since he got the win he wanted in 2016, Trump has come to believe that the trophy of the presidency is his by right. In some ways, I think he is genuinely surprised that someone is trying to take it from him. Democratic and meritocratic principles have never applied to him before and he is shocked that they might apply to him now. The result is that he sees the election as an attempt by Biden to steal something to which he is unquestionably entitled. He wants to keep his shiny object. He wants to say he is the reigning champion of elections.

In Trump’s mind, his efforts to suppress votes, challenge voting results, and bully officials into granting him a victory don’t equal cheating in an election. He sees it as a way to keep something that is rightfully his. He doesn’t believe he is wrong; he believes we who would vote against him are wrong for taking away his hard-won presidency. He is not stealing the election; the election, the victory, should be his by fiat. In his view, his opponents are stealing all of that from him.

Other have suggested to me he fears that he will face legal consequences if he returns to the ranks of average citizens. I’m not convinced that really haunts him. He has been running afoul of the law for his entire career and has never faced consequences. Why should be believe that he might face them now? I suspect that in his darkest moments he isn’t thinking that he will lose an election and go to jail. He is only thinking that people might call him a loser and that is more than he can bear.

This is all why he is so hellbent on winning this election. It’s not the power or the glory that motivates him. It’s not even the concern that his lawbreaking will catch up to him at long last. It’s his sense of entitlement and his desire to win things that is driving him. He will throw any elbow into any face to win this game, even going so far so throw an elbow into the face of democracy itself.

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