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review 2018-09-24 08:34
Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them
Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them - Jennifer Wright

I finally finished this one.  The delay was a combination of being on holiday, and needing to put some space between my experience of this book and the experience of others, as I was starting to feel like I was losing my objectivity regarding my feelings about this book.

 

So, my feelings: Get Well Soon was poorly sub-titled and marketed.  As a popular science book, or a popular history-about-science book, it fails.  As an introductory anthropological and cultural survey of how society has historically reacted to epidemics and pandemics, I think its excellent.

 

Furthermore, while I like her writing style a lot, it is polarising.  Jennifer Wright is a 30-something author whose voice is informal, irreverent and snarky.  She writes the way friends - good friends - talk when they don't have to behave themselves.  She uses this no-nonsense voice to sometimes share her thoughts about topics that are themselves, polarising.  

 

So this is a book that isn't going to appeal to everyone.  It particularly isn't going to appeal - at all - to anyone looking for a more sober, scientifically-focused exploration of the topic.  After reading the whole thing, I'm pretty sure it was never meant to, at least, not from the author's perspective.

 

"If you take nothing else away from this book, I hope it's that sick people are not villains."

 

This is a recurring theme from start to finish.  Wright's objective seems to be to focus a spotlight on humanity's reaction to mass illness throughout history, whether good or bad.  Her hope in doing so is that perhaps those who read this book will learn from history rather than doom themselves to repeat it.  She does this is the frankest, bluntest possible way, with a lot of snarky humor.

 

In this objective, I believe she succeeds.  I think those of us who could be labeled as 'prolific readers' or those who voraciously devour their favorite subjects, might lose perspective on how well-informed, or not,  most people today are.  Society today is at least as divided as it's been at almost any other time in history, and a good deal of opinion is shaped via the internet, a source we all know can be about as accurate as a round of the telephone game.

 

In this context, I think the book is fantastic.  Jennifer Wright seems to be a popular author of columns in various newspapers and magazines; if even a handful of her fans from Harper's Bazaar, et al, read this book simply because she wrote it, and they come away having learned something they didn't know before they started, or thinking harder about their responsibility in society, then Wright will have succeeded where others have failed.  (And yes, I'm generally pessimistic about the world I live in - my country is being run by an orange lunatic; I think I'm entitled to a bit of pessimism.)

 

I'm not one of her magazine/newspaper fans.  In fact it wasn't until after I'd started this that I realised I'd ever read anything by her before.  I'm also quantitatively better read, if not qualitatively (some would argue), and I can say that not only did I enjoy this book a great deal, but I learned more than I expected to.  For example, I had no idea that the Spanish Flu wasn't actually Spanish, but probably American, and I had no idea that it killed so many Americans.  Granted, most of my knowledge of the Spanish Flu comes from British fiction, but it's a testament to the horrifying effectiveness of government censorship during WWI that you still don't read about it in American fiction, and this is a disease that killed in one month more Americans than the US Civil War.  I'd also never heard of Encephalitis Lethargica, and sort of wish I never had.  Even on the diseases I knew more about, Wright managed to impart something new for me, and in at least 2 chapters, left me misty eyed over the power people have when they choose to be selfless.

 

As a popular science book meant to tackle a complicated topic in a palatable way, this book is a fail; there's not nearly enough scientific discussion or data here to qualify this as such a book.  But as a popular, cultural overview of the way societies throughout history have succeeded or failed to handle epidemics when they happened and the importance of rational, humane leaders and populace in times of crises, I think Wright succeeds very well.

 

The tragedy of this book is that it's marketed to the very people who are bound to be disappointed by it and likely don't need its message, and the people who might gain the most from it are likely to pass it by because they think it'll be too boring and dry.

 

I read this for The Flat Book Society's September read, but it also qualifies for the Doomsday square in Halloween Bingo.

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text 2018-09-23 17:32
A preview rather than a review
Faith Born of Seduction: Sexual Trauma, Body Image and Religion - Jennifer L. Manlowe

My house -- along with my studio and my workshop -- is full of books.  I keep thinking I have them all catalogued and then I keep finding more that never were.  This is one of them, rediscovered while looking for something else a few days ago.

 

Some explanation is, I feel, in order at this point, especially for those of you who don't know me.  Ha ha.

 

In the summer of 1998, my daughter was approaching her last semester at Arizona State University where she was majoring in social work.  She had taken a summer job as a resident/counselor/whatever at a group home for at-risk youth somewhere in the greater Phoenix area.  I'm not sure where it was exactly.  It wasn't the greatest job in the world, but it was in her field and if nothing else would give her relevant experience for her résumé when she went looking for a job after graduation.

 

Sometime into her tenure at this job, things started to get weird.  There were other people who worked there throughout the day and night and on week-ends, and my daughter began having problems with some of them.  Though she was never assaulted or abused in any way -- at least to my knowledge -- she reported to me that other young women in the facility were complaining about some of the male employees behaving in inappropriate ways.  She reported it to management, as did some of the other female employees, but it seemed nothing was being done.

 

For reasons I can't go into here, my own life was in turmoil at this time, and I felt additionally frustrated because there seemed to be nothing I could do to help my daughter's situation.  Obviously the circumstances were not helpful for the young people in her care, but there was also a certain element of danger that any mother would find disturbing.

 

The company that operated the group home was Southwest Key.  Yes, the company that is currently operating detention facilities for detained immigrants and has been in the news because more than a few of its employees have been charged with sexual assault and abuse.  I recognized the name of the company immediately, and yes, it's been part of the reason for my, shall we say, agitation over the past few months.

 

As a result of my daughter's experience and my own frustration, I got it into my head in July of 1998 that I should go back to college, finish my degree in something or other, and then go to law school.  At the time, I was almost 50 years old.

 

Barely a month later, I was back in school, at ASU's West campus, working toward a degree in women's studies.  In May 2000, I graduated with honors and went on to the then-brand-new Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies program.  In 2003 I got my MAIS in sociology.  Law school had been a nice dream, but the logistics made it impractical. 

 

I wrote a lot of papers during those five years, and unlike most of my fellow students, I didn't bitch about the assignments.  I told very few of my professors about my background as a novelist, but I did get a lot of compliments on my writing.  One compliment came from a fellow student that I've never forgotten.

 

The honors program included a required seminar course, which happened to be taught that particular semester by the assistant dean of the honors college.  She intimidated most of the students in the class, especially when we started writing papers and she started grading them.  No matter how she tried to conceal them, the red markings on virtually all the papers were as vivid as fresh blood when she handed them back to the students.  Sometimes there were gasps, other times groans.  The professor occasionally said she was accustomed to teaching PhD candidates so she had high standards.  Maybe too high.

 

But she was very generous with the red ink.

 

Except to me.  She rarely wrote anything other than a grade on my papers.

 

The class met for three hours, with a short break in the middle.  One morning after she had handed back a set of very red-stained papers, we students gathered in the lounge area during our break.  One of my fellows approached me, and she had clearly been crying.  She held up her paper, which was so covered in red ink that the original text was barely visible.

 

"What does yours look like, Linda?" she asked me.

 

I showed her my paper, its pages pristine black and white with nary a red mark anywhere.

 

She shook her head in disbelief.  "How do you do it?  Everyone's pages are splattered with red, in the margins, between the lines, on the back.  Why not yours?"

 

"Because I'm a writer," I said, "and because I care about the subject.  It's not just an assignment."

 

The whole concept went over her head.  She couldn't even imagine someone caring about the material we covered in the class.  It was, after all, just another class where we read some assigned books and then discussed them.  So what if it was the required honors seminar and the title of the course that semester was "The Just Society"?  That didn't actually mean anything, did it?

 

I acquired a lot of books during those five years.  Not just the textbooks, but the other books I bought for a quarter or 50 cents from the college library sale shelves, or at the nearby Barnes & Noble.  I picked up Jennifer Manlowe's Faith Born of Seduction in a fortuitous discovery because it had been listed in the bibliography of another book I'd been reading and then there it was for half a dollar on the sale shelf. 

 

The subject matter is depressing: Manlowe studies nine women who had been abused as children by members of their family or extended family and how their history of being abused affected both their body image and behavior (sexual activity and eating disorders) and their attitude toward religion, in particular patriarchal Christianity.  Manlowe doesn't have much nice to say about that last aspect.

 

What particularly drew me to Manlowe's work, however, was that she based her research methods on those developed by Robert Jay Lifton in his pioneering work with Vietnam veterans and PTSD.  I was familiar with Lifton's work because a few months prior to my sudden decision to go back to school, a friend had sent me Hiroshima in America by Lifton and Greg Mitchell.  That book and Dale Spender's The Writing or the Sex, or why you don't have to read women's writing to know it's no good were instrumental in that decision.  I have since become "friends" with Greg Mitchell on Twitter.  (I won a copy of his The Tunnels in a little contest he sponsored on Twitter.)

 

But the point here is that all this stuff is interconnected.  From page 133, in Faith Born of Seduction:

 

 

Since 1998, nothing has changed.  Nothing.  Absofuckinglutely nothing.  I am still outraged.

 

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review 2018-09-23 03:28
The Creek by Jennifer L. Holm
The Creek - Jennifer L. Holm

 

First, pets go missing, and then a child is killed. Twelve-year-old Penny and her friends hear the gossip about Caleb and they, like all the parents, think he is the killer. After all, he terrorized the town before he was sent away and now he is back. 

 

The story was okay. The characters don't have a lot of depth and Caleb is basically just a shadow of evil. The final reveal is a bit of a stretch. But it was a quick read with some twists and creepy moments. It's aimed at middle-grade readers and I think that age group would enjoy it.

 

I read this for the Terrifying Women square:

 

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text 2018-09-22 01:40
Forgot I had this; need to reread
Faith Born of Seduction: Sexual Trauma, Body Image and Religion - Jennifer L. Manlowe

I picked this up when I was working on a paper for school 20+ years ago.

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review 2018-09-20 15:32
Review: The Darkest Star by Jennifer L. Armentrout
The Darkest Star - Jennifer L. Armentrout

 

When seventeen-year-old Evie Dasher is caught up in a raid at a notorious club known as one of the few places where humans and the surviving Luxen can mingle freely, she meets Luc, an unnaturally beautiful guy she initially assumes is a Luxen...but he is in fact something much more powerful. Her growing attraction for Luc will lead her deeper and deeper into a world she'd only heard about, a world where everything she thought she knew will be turned on its head...

#1 New York Times, USA Today, and internationally bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout returns to the universe of the Lux in this brand new series, featuring beloved characters both new and old.

 

 

*I received a free copy from the publisher via Netgalley and chose to leave a voluntary review. Thank you!*

 

 

I love Jennifer L. Armentrout’s work and I loved the Lux series. So this book was a must read for me. I was super excited excited to dive back into the lux world. You don’t have to have read the Lux books in order to read this one but I would recommend it, not only are they great but it will help you with past events and or people. But again, it is not necessary in order to read this book.

That being said, sadly I didn’t love as much as I thought I would, it was not horrible by any means, but it also was not the best she has written. The good,  it had plenty of action and humor, we get from her books. Loved the banter we got between Luc and Evie, most of the time, there were a few times it just seemed forced or over the top. It also had its suspense and defiantly kept you asking for more and wanting to find out, who ,what and why….And of course there is the romance, which also had its up and downs. We see some lovely and familiar faces again and it was great. But also meet some pretty great new people.  

Luc, it has been a few years since we saw him last but he is still the funny dude we met way back when. Just all grown up. Or well almost ……. And for the most part I liked him, funny, cocky and willing protect those around him. Now that includes Evie.  Sometime now with Evie he had his moments, that more than anything made me roll my eye, not so much him as them together. Evie, it is clear from the beginning that there is more to her and it takes a bit before we get there but I must say I was just like “ oh okay…..” not shocked or anything it was just hmm okay. Maybe that was because, I was not her biggest fan and she annoyed me a lot of times. She often just came over as whiny more than anything. The romance sometimes seemed to be taking over the story but it all came back around.

For me, the whole narrative came over as very young or naiveish ?! IF that is a word lol. I know it is YA, but so was the Lux series but that by any means did not seem that young/ and or teen angst written as this book.

So overall, we get a teen angst insta love/lust teen drama but that is also wonderfully connected to the world we read and loved. In a weird way I couldn’t quit. I was often annoyed with it but also couldn’t put it down.

So the verdict.  I give it 3★, I didn’t love it and I didn’t hate, it was just in the middle somewhere. That being said though I most likely will get book two to see how it continues.

 

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Source: snoopydoosbookreviews.com/index.php/2018/09/20/review-the-darkest-star-origin-1-by-jennifer-l-armentrout
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