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review SPOILER ALERT! 2019-12-18 07:50
The Complete Novels of Jane Austen
The Complete Novels of Jane Austen (Chartwell Classics) - Jane Austen







TITLE:  The Complete Novels of Jane Austen


AUTHOR:  Jane Austen


EDITION:  Chartwell Classics


FORMAT:  Hardcover


ISBN-13:  978-0785834212




"Jane Austen revolutionized the literary romance, using it as a platform from which to address issues of gender politics and class consciousness among the British middle-class of the late eighteenth century. The novels included in the collection - Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, and Lady Susan - represent all of Austen's complete novels, and provide the reader with an entrance into the world she and her memorable characters inhabited.

With witty, unflinching morality, Austen portrays English middle-class life as the eighteenth century came to a close and the nineteenth century began. Austen's heroines find happiness in many forms, each of the novels is a story of love and marriage -- marriage for love, financial security and for social status.


In a publishing career that spanned less than ten years her work brought her little personal fame and only a few positive reviews during her lifetime. It wasn't until the 1940s that she became widely accepted in academia as a great English writer. The second half of the 20th century saw a proliferation of Austen scholarship and the emergence of a fan culture. Austen's works continue to influence the course of the novel even as they charm readers today."




Notes on the Physical Book


The physical hardcover book is quite large, fat and heavy with a pretty dust jacket.  The paper is bright white and of good quality.  The text is standard sized, similar in size to the Oxford World's Classics series.  The book includes an introduction by Jennifer C. Garlen, a section on the life and times of Jane Austen, reviews and notices, and a section of suggested reading.


Sense & Sensibility [3 stars]


Jane Austen originally published this novel, in 1811, anonymously - "By A Lady" appeared on the title page in place of the author's name.  Sense and Sensibility is the coming of age story of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood; two sisters with different personalities (one sensible and one emotional) who each experience romance and heartbreak. 


Personally, I found the main characters and the majority of the secondary characters to be overly nice and for the most part terribly bland and more similar than different.  The majority of the men also appear overly spineless since they can't seem to do anything without mommy's permission or they might loose their inheritance [this is ridiculous - go find something useful to do and make your own fortune!]  Despite all the courting drama and descriptions of hysterics in the novel, I found that the story lacked passion.  It was all very proper and civilized... and bland.  I also couldn't help the mental image of everyone going about their business with huge, florescent price tags stuck to their shirts.


I'm not quite sure why this is such a lauded classic, unless whole generations of impressionable girls were forced to read this and then inflicted it on their own children.



Pride & Prejudice  [4 stars]


I enjoyed Pride and Prejudice more than Sense and Sensibility.  The characters were more rounded/flawed, with more variety; the pacing a bit faster. This is a novel that revolves around relationships - not just romantic relationships, but those of friends, family and other acquantances.  The novel also provides something of a social commentary in terms of the limits imposed on women inheriting property and class structure.  There is also a great deal of humour in this novel that I missed on the first read.  I do find the female obsession with marriage and marrying someone with lots of money rather irritating, but then that's what was required in that time period if you didn't want to end up destitute or dependant on some other relative.  Context (social structure, society, time period etc) really is important with books like this, otherwise all the characters come off as shallow and the plot insipid.  The book is not too long winded with some delightfully pithy clauses.

An interesting thing I noticed on the second read was that the reader initially only learns about Mr Darcy through the observations and dialogues of other people, so the reader essentially aquires the same prejudices against him that Elizabeth Bennet has.  

NOTE This is not a historical fiction novel.  Jane Austen was writing novels about contemporary life (to her), especially the problems facing young women in her own social class (the country gentry).



Mansfield Park [1 star]


All Austen's novels are social commentaries in one way or another, and one could mine Mansfield Park for all sorts of things such as the marriage market, child abuse, child rearing practises (or lack therof), morality, family dynamics etc.  But I found this novel to be rather dull, long-winded and superficial, with nothing substantial happening until the last third of the book.  I can't say I was terribly impressed with the very convenient ending either.  The majority of the characters were also rather flat, lacking depth, and essentially forgetable.  Mrs Norris is terrifyingly devious and manipulative, and would have made a better villain assuming there was someone stronger (or at least more vocal) than Fanny to use as her favourite target.  But Austen didn't write that book.  She wrote the tedious Mansfield Park instead.  Karma is a bitch, but it still doesn't make up for slogging through 400 pages. 



Emma [2 stars]


This novel has a tedious beginning, but does pick up pace eventually.  There is also too much "tell" and not enough "show".  I can't say I was terribly impressed with this novel, but it was better than Mansfield Park.  In someone else's hands, this might have been a comedy along the lines of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.  But it's not.  The plot was superficial and the main character highly annoying.  The setting is too idyllic - the worst thing that happens is a bit of snow and a breeze [I'm beginning to wonder if a digression into the Paris sewer system would be preferable?].  Everyone is in perfect health except for the occasional sniffles.


Emma is a snobbish, entitled, arrogant, bored, callous, hypocritical, immature, know-it-all, busybody who has decided to play match-maker for all and sundry.  And she somehow comes out of the whole affair with no consequences to herself.  Miss Bates could have used less ink time - a lot of irrelevant babbling just doesn't do anything for me.  Then again, a whole many pages could have been burned since the characters did nothing but babble about the proverbial weather or how "pleasant" and "agreeable" so-an-so was.  All the characters are "agreeable"!  Heaven forbid we have someone that is NOT agreeable and charming and nice!!!  I'm assuming Mr Woodhouse has issues (agoraphobia and hypochondria comes to mind), if not, he is just plain silly.  Mr Knightley is the only redeeming aspect of this book, until one of those very convenient WTF moments.  Come to think of it, I liked Mr John Knightley a great deal as well.  He didn't waste any words!  I also have the impression Austen got bored of her own novels and just ended them in the most expedient manner possible to get a happily ever after.


NOTE:  If this is supposed to be a social commentary of some sort, it is extremely narrow in focus (wealthy landed gentry) and highly idealized.



Northanger Abbey [3 stars]


This is the first of Jane Austen's novels to be completed, but it wasn't published until after her death, due to publisher vagaries.  This is a coming of age story that is not as long, or as tedious, as some of Austen's other novels, but this one still has that chopped off, summarised in a few paragraphs, ending.  Northanger Abbey is something of a parody of Gothic fiction, which (no doubt) the reader will get more out of, if they have previous read Gothic fiction.



Persuasion [3.5 stars]


Persuasion was completed 6 months before Austen's death, and published posthumously.  This novel deals with old love rekindled and given a second chance, along with some scheming shenanigans by other interfering busy-bodies.  This book is fairly short compared to the other novels and thus has less frivolous, long-winded descriptions of the furniture, the weather, clothing, the monetary worth of everyone and sundry, and how "agreeable" everyone is.  This novel also has some "action" that does not involve tea parties.  I enjoyed this book more than the others (except Pride and Prejudice).



Lady Susan [4 stars]


Lady Susan is a short epistolary novel, which was completed in 1794 but not published until 1871.  The narrative follows the schemes of the charming, manipulative and unscrupulous seductress widow, Lady Susan.  The letters follow the various attempts of Lady Susan to marry off the daughter she detests and find herself a new, wealthy husband.    This is a fairly entertaining and rather amusing novel that has the benefit of skipping all the "boring bits" and dealing with the action and thoughts of Lady Susan and her relations.  Too bad Austen didn't write more epistolary novels.








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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-09-07 03:06
Get Well Soon by Jennifer Wright
Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them - Jennifer Wright

TITLE:  Get Well Soon:  History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them


AUTHOR:  Jennifer Wright




FORMAT:  Hardcover


ISBN-13:  9781627797467



"A humorous book about history's worst plagues—from the Antonine Plague, to leprosy, to polio—and the heroes who fought them.

In 1518, in a small town in France, Frau Troffea began dancing and didn’t stop. She danced herself to her death six days later, and soon thirty-four more villagers joined her. Then more. In a month more than 400 people had died from the mysterious dancing plague. In late-nineteenth-century England an eccentric gentleman founded the No Nose Club in his gracious townhome—a social club for those who had lost their noses, and other body parts, to the plague of syphilis for which there was then no cure. And in turn-of-the-century New York, an Irish cook caused two lethal outbreaks of typhoid fever, a case that transformed her into the notorious Typhoid Mary and led to historic medical breakthroughs.

Throughout time, humans have been terrified and fascinated by the plagues they've suffered from. Get Well Soon delivers the gruesome, morbid details of some of the worst plagues in human history, as well as stories of the heroic figures who fought to ease their suffering. With her signature mix of in-depth research and upbeat storytelling, and not a little dark humor, Jennifer Wright explores history’s most gripping and deadly outbreaks.



*********************POSSIBLE SPOILERS**********************************





This poorly written book is a collection of superficial, sensationalist, chatty chapters on a variety of epidemics (and two extras) that are supposed to be history’s worst plagues (some are, some aren’t) and the heroes (or more likely ignorant fools according to the author) who fought them.  There is no original content or any type of original insights in this book, but there are a vast quantity of quotes straight from other (better written) books.  This book is long on opinions and short on science, so if you are looking for science, try any of the recommended books below.  The topics covered include:  the Antonine Plague; Bubonic Plague; Dancing Plague; Smallpox; Syphilis; Tuberculosis; Cholera; Leprosy; Typhoid; Spanish Flu; Encephalitis Lethargica; Lobotomies; Polio; and as an afterthought, HIV/AIDS


Wright spends little time discussing the origins and emergence of most the epidemics covered in this book.  There is a very limited examination of what the disease actually does to a human body (other than the gory bits usually including pustules) or how widespread and devasting it was in terms of socio-economic factors (especially the later chapters).  Only a few chapters explain how that particular epidemic ended or even if it did end or what the status of that particular disease is currently.  Some of the chosen epidemics weren’t the “worst plagues” by any means or even an epidemic (depending on the definition), or even diseases for that matter (e.g. chapter on lobotomies and dancing plague).  The author does not provide a partial view of the topic, and can’t wait to assign villains or heroes to each disease, or to insult and mock anyone she feels like. 


Some of the information presented in this book is suspect, or at least outdated, especially in the chapters dealing with TB, cholera, polio, leprosy and Antonine plague.  Wikipedia is not a valid reference.  It is also apparent from the excessive insertions of the author’s own opinions that she didn’t bother to research the topics or the people involved too closely either.  The author also contradicts herself in the matter of informed consent – informed consent is necessary when she agrees with it, but unnecessary when she doesn’t agree with it.  In addition, if you are going to use a graphic (in a published book of all places!) to show the rate of medical progress over time, learn to draw a proper graph with defined, labelled axes (or get someone else to do it!), instead of a random floating line which means ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!


Wright has an especially aggravating writing style.  Altogether, the writing style was too juvenile and frivolous for the subject matter (squealing, ditzy Hollywood cheerleaders come to mind).  Each chapter comes across as a series of book reports covering a different epidemic per chapter – written by an immature teenager or a vapid blogger.  The specific chapters rely predominantly on one major source, usually a much better written book on the topic.  This book is an simplistic and biased glossing of historical epidemics (mostly) that the author has used as an opportunity to snicker, criticise, preach her opinions and sensationalise in terms of emphasizing the unpleasant side-effects of the disease (pustules, rotting noses, the more disgusting the better etc).  


The book is stuffed with flat jokes (the jokes weren't even vaguely funny), dated pop-culture reference, snide and snarky comments,  speculations, not to mention the author’s excessive and continuous interjections of her mean-spirited opinions, and political commentary, which were unwarranted, irrelevant, not to mention unprofessional.  Wright makes broad sweeping generalizations and seems to be uninterested in viewing these epidemics within their historical context.  The tone is dripping with sarcasm and contempt for the poor people that suffered from these terrible disease, and Heaven save you from the author’s vicious pen, if you were one of the unfortunate doctors who were trying to help with the limited knowledge and instrumentation of pre-21st century medical knowledge.


It is possible to write medical nonfiction in an interesting manner without sounding like a vapid teenager.  I learnt more about the author from all her snide opinions than any of the diseases from this book.  This book comes across as a poor imitation of a Mary Roach book, so if you like Mary Roach’s books, you might (possibly) like this one.  If you want a book that tells you something of the how, where and why of a variety of diseases; you need to look elsewhere.  I found Wright’s shallow, cruel and arrogantly opinionated writing style an insult to the reader and personally repellent.





For those people who think the Ancient Roman cities did not have sewer systems, please do some basic research:



Roman sewers – ancient Roman toilets, poop, pipes



What toilets and sewers tell us about ancient Roman sanitation

Rome Is Still Technically Using One Of The First Sewer Systems In The World

Aqueducts and Wastewater Systems of Rome





Compilation of Diseases:

~The Coming Plague:  Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance by Laurie Garrett

~New Killer Diseases:  How the Alarming Evolution of Germs Threatens Us All by Elinor Levy

~The History of Disease in Ancient Times by Philip Norrie

~Viruses, Plagues, and History:  Past, Present and Future (Revised, Updated Edition) by Michael B.A. Oldstone


Plumbing and Personal Hygiene:

~Flushed:  How the Plumber Saved Civilization by W. Hodding Carter

~The Origin of Feces: What Excrement Tells Us about Evolution, Ecology, and a Sustainable Society by David Waltner-Toews

~The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History by Katherine Ashenburg

 ~The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters by Rose George


Diseases in General:

~Spillover:  Emerging Diseases, Animal Hosts, and the Future of Human Health by David Quammen

~Germs, Genes, & Civilization: How Epidemics Shaped Who We Are Today by David P. Clark

~An Unnatural History of Emerging Infections by Ron Barrett & George Armelagos


Specific Diseases:

~The Great Mortality:  An Intimate Hsitory of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time by John Kelly

~Dancing Plague:  The Strange True Story of an Extraordinary Illness by John Waller

~Superbug:  The Fatal Menace of MRSA by Maryn McKenna

~Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus by Bill Wasik & Monica Murphy



~Strange Medicine:  A Shocking History of Real Medical Practices Through the Ages by Nathan Belofsky

~Betrayal of Trust by Laurie Garrett [This book gives a great insight into how disease progressed in different countries and the social conditions and public health failings (and victories) that shaped how we understand infectious disease].



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photo 2015-07-01 20:55
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text 2013-12-21 08:45
[RANDOM] Need some funnies in your life after a hard day?

Just Keep Walking and Don’t Look Back





Act Natural





Wait for Assistance




Act Like You Meant To Do It



I am in tears after seeing this post. ROFL. You have to see this post, it's freaking hilarious.


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