Genre: Essays

Audio Review: Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them by Jennifer Wright

Posted January 5, 2018 by Hillary in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

ISBN: 9781627797467
Length: 7 hours and 43 minutes
Audio Review: Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them by Jennifer WrightGet Well Soon by Jennifer Wright
Published by Henry Holt and Company on February 7th 2017
Genres: History, Essays, Social History
Pages: 336
Format: audiobook
Source: bought

A witty, irreverent tour of history's worst plagues—from the Antonine Plague, to leprosy, to polio—and a celebration of the heroes who fought them

In 1518, in a small town in Alsace, Frau Troffea began dancing and didn’t stop. She danced until she was carried away six days later, and soon thirty-four more villagers joined her. Then more. In a month more than 400 people had been stricken by the mysterious dancing plague. In late-seventeenth-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.

Throughout time, humans have been terrified and fascinated by the diseases history and circumstance have dropped on them. Some of their responses to those outbreaks are almost too strange to believe in hindsight. Get Well Soon delivers the gruesome, morbid details of some of the worst plagues we’ve suffered as a species, as well as stories of the heroic figures who selflessly fought to ease the suffering of their fellow man. With her signature mix of in-depth research and storytelling, and not a little dark humor, Jennifer Wright explores history’s most gripping and deadly outbreaks, and ultimately looks at the surprising ways they’ve shaped history and humanity for almost as long as anyone can remember.

I am really getting the hang of audiobooks. This makes my third one at the time of writing this. The third one I could understand that is. I saw a few bloggers that I love rave about the audiobook production so I took a gamble and got it with an Audible credit. I was not disappointed. I have often wondered how someone could put on a good audio show and now I know.

The subject matter has the potential to be boring. I mean what can you say about the plagues that won’t put people to sleep? A lot as it turns out. To be fair I had never really thought about any plague expect that the Middle Ages had one and it killed millions of people. I had no idea there was a whole history regarding plagues. That just goes to show how much I know.  Gabra Zackman manages to make this book seem  laugh out loud funny.  I listened to it while waiting for my Audiology appointment and even though I was horrified by some parts of it I could not help but laugh at the sarcasm dripping through my blue tooth headphones.

Funny story I I thought that the first plague that the book mentioned was called the eight or nine plague. I understood that the Roman army brought it back from the Germanic tribes but for the life of me, I couldn’t find any info on an ancient Roman eight or nine plague. I was googling and everything but nada I FINALLY figured out that it was the ANTONINE plague. Hmmph. I was perplexed when not even the almighty Google could tell me what the hell the eight or nine languages was LOL.

All kidding aside I was impressed at the author Jennifer Wright ability to tackle this subject matter and what we can learn from history without coming across as preachy. It would be far to easy to look down at the people who lived through the bubonic plague and how they dealt with it than it is to look at them as fellow human beings who had some tough choices to make. We can either judge them for leaving their children behind or empathize with them and learn what we can from them. I would choose empathy and so does Jennifer Wright.


love learning about the macabre and this book serves it in heaping dosages. This is NOT  a book to listen to while you are standing I line at Cracker Barrel. cough  The book goes into some detail about HOW the plague is spread and what the symptoms are and  I was listening to it while my parents and I were waiting in line at Cracker Barrel and… let’s just say I stuck to my diet that day with no issues.

Another point that I never thought about is the people who helped beat the plague into submission. I mean obviously, someone did as we are all here alive today but to think about what it actually took to keep the rat fleas away well… I never thought of it in such detail but yet this is precisely the amount of detail that makes up this book.

I really enjoyed the audio production. I felt that the narrator sounded exactly like it was supposed to sound. I even feel that the audio production even added more to the feel of the book.  From reading other bloggers feelings on audiobooks it can be a hit or miss but this one id definitely a hit.



Book Review: Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison

Posted May 26, 2015 by Hillary in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: Empathy Exams by Leslie JamisonThe Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison
Published by Graywolf Press on April 1st 2014
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Essays, Literary, Literary Collections
Pages: 256
Format: ebook
Source: library

From personal loss to phantom diseases, The Empathy Exams is a bold and brilliant collection, winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction PrizeA Publishers Weekly Top Ten Essay Collection of Spring 2014Beginning with her experience as a medical actor who was paid to act out symptoms for medical students to diagnose, Leslie Jamison's visceral and revealing essays ask essential questions about our basic understanding of others: How should we care about each other? How can we feel another's pain, especially when pain can be assumed, distorted, or performed? Is empathy a tool by which to test or even grade each other? By confronting pain--real and imagined, her own and others'--Jamison uncovers a personal and cultural urgency to feel. She draws from her own experiences of illness and bodily injury to engage in an exploration that extends far beyond her life, spanning wide-ranging territory--from poverty tourism to phantom diseases, street violence to reality television, illness to incarceration--in its search for a kind of sight shaped by humility and grace.

why I read this book

Many bloggers who opinions and reviews I trust raved about this book, so I just HAD to read it to see what all the hype was about. Plus I love essays, so that was a big plus.

my review

This book started out with Leslie Jamison writing about her role in acting with teaching in training Drs on how to be empathic. My first reaction when reading this was, they teach that I wonder how some of the Drs that I have had got past that one. I have had bad experiences with some Dr’s. Can you tell?

ANYWAY she goes into the role about how they have a script and stuff and how they rate DRS on empathy. At first I was like, I wonder how this book got to be so popular? Then I kept on reading, and Leslie Jamison does a good job on turning the topic of empathy on its head. I love how she takes what happened to her in her life and then tries to apply empathy to it. Like in one essay she talks about how she was attacked in a central American country and while a lot of people would end up putting the whole country on their shit list she writes and explores how she could be more empathic to the person who attacked her. I must admit that that one was my favorite as I have spent some time in Africa and while I was never attacked, After reading this I also feel that I missed the empathy boat.

After reading this I have found myself trying to be more empathic to people around me. After all there are different sides to a situation. Who is to say one side is more valid than another?

I have recommended this book to everyone I know. I feel that lots of people will benefit from this book and the over lying message. This is definitely going to be one of my top 10 books this year.


The World Split Open

Posted November 25, 2014 by Hillary in book review / 0 Comments

The World Split OpenThe World Split Open by Margaret AtwoodWallace Earle StegnerEdward P. JonesUrsula K. Le GuinMarilynne Robinson
Published by Tin House Books on 2014-11-11
Genres: Essays, Literary Collections
Pages: 272
Format: eARC
Source: netgalley
Buy on Amazon

Since 1984, Literary Arts has welcomed many of the world’s most renowned authors and storytellers to its stage for one of the country’s largest lectures series. Sold-out crowds congregate at Portland’s Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall to hear these writers’ discuss their work and their thoughts on the trajectory of contemporary literature and culture. In celebration of Literary Arts’ 30-year anniversary, A Literary Arts Readers collects highlights from the series in a single volume. Whether it’s Wallace Stegner exploring how we use fiction to make sense of life or Ursula K. Le Guin on where ideas come from, Margaret Atwood on the need for complex female characters or Robert Stone on morality and truth in literature, Edward P. Jones on the role of imagination in historical novels or Marilynne Robinson on the nature of beauty, these essays illuminate not just the world of letters but the world at large.

My Review:

I have always been fascinated with writers and their writing process. When I read a story I often wonder what went through the writers minds while they were composing. As readers we often glean what we think the writers meant. Are they making a political statement? What hidden meanings are underlying the words that are on the page?

The World Split Open is a book of essays by different writers. In this book they talk about the writing process and how they get their ideas among many other things. This book had some of my favorite writers in it and I was super excited to get a “look behind the scenes” so to speak. One writer who I was sure wrote her book to make a political statement said that she was surprised when people took her book that way. That she was just making up a story based on events that fascinated her. I was somewhat taken aback by this but it makes sense. Writers  dont always set out to make any kind of statement but rather to make sense of things in their world.

There are many authors represented here covering a multitude of topics ranging from feminism to handling criticism and such. I found a lot of useful information in this book. We don’t often see authors as humans with feelings but this book brings to life the whole picture of authors.





Review:Squirrel Seeks Chipmunks

Posted October 18, 2011 by Hillary in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

seeks chipmunks

From Goodreads:

Featuring David Sedaris’s unique blend of hilarity and heart, this new collection of keen-eyed animal-themed tales is an utter delight. Though the characters may not be human, the situations in these stories bear an uncanny resemblance to the insanity of everyday life.

In “The Toad, the Turtle, and the Duck,” three strangers commiserate about animal bureaucracy while waiting in a complaint line. In “Hello Kitty,” a cynical feline struggles to sit through his prison-mandated AA meetings. In “The Squirrel and the Chipmunk,” a pair of star-crossed lovers is separated by prejudiced family members.

My review: I got this from the library because I loved David Sedris older work. I was unaware that this was a collection of convoluted fairy tales. I was a bit disappointed if only because it was different than what I  originally anticipated.

Once I got into the stories though I could see how the related to his older work. Those familiar with his previous stories will be able to pin point what he is referring to in this book.

As long as you don’t go in expecting his usual stories about his life and prepare yourself for a sort of fairy tales you should like this book.


When You Are Engulfed in Flames

Posted February 15, 2011 by Hillary in Book Reviews / 0 Comments


I have read most of David Sedris earlier work and loved them . So I was excited to pick up this one.

However this book I do not feel represents his best work. The essays were not as snarky or as funny.In his earlier work he is gifted in bring out the humor of almost any situation. During the time I read “Engulfed in Flames” I kept waiting for the funny to kick in but it never did.

The essay themselves cover the usual gambit from his family to his health. There was a essay on how and where he quit smoking. I felt that that essay should had been rife with his usual snarky attire but alas it was almost boring.

This brings me to my question. If an author earlier work is more funny or more entertaining than his current one, does that mean that his current book is somehow less than an earlier one?

I mean, if I had picked up this one first I might have said this was a good book. But since I read Naked first, I know this is just so so for him. I am uneasy giving it a lesser rating just because of that. What is your thoughts on this?


Bitch in the House

Posted November 22, 2010 by Hillary in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Bitch in the HouseThe Bitch in the House by Cathi Hanauer
Published by Harper Collins on September 16th 2003
Genres: Essays, Literary Collections, Social Science, Women's Studies
Pages: 320

Virginia Woolf introduced us to the “Angel in the House”, now prepare to meet... The Bitch In the House. Women today have more choices than at any time in history, yet many smart, ambitious, contemporary women are finding themselves angry, dissatisfied, stressed out. Why are they dissatisfied? And what do they really want? These questions form the premise of this passionate, provocative, funny, searingly honest collection of original essays in which twenty-six women writers—ranging in age from twenty-four to sixty-five, single and childless or married with children or four times divorced—invite readers into their lives, minds, and bedrooms to talk about the choices they’ve made, what’s working, and what’s not. With wit and humor, in prose as poetic and powerful as it is blunt and dead-on, these intriguing women offer details of their lives that they’ve never publicly revealed before, candidly sounding off on: • The difficult decisions and compromises of living with lovers, marrying, staying single and having children • The perpetual tug of war between love and work, family and career • The struggle to simultaneously care for ailing parents and a young family • The myth of co-parenting • Dealing with helpless mates and needy toddlers • The constrictions of traditional women’s roles as well as the cliches of feminism • Anger at laid-back live-in lovers content to live off a hardworking woman’s checkbook • Anger at being criticized for one’s weight • Anger directed at their mothers, right and wrong • And–well–more anger... “This book was born out of anger,” begins Cathi Hanauer, but the end result is an intimate sharing of experience that will move, amuse, and enlighten. The Bitch in the House is a perfect companion for your students as they plot a course through the many voices of modern feminism. This is the sound of the collective voice of successful women today-in all their anger, grace, and glory. From The Bitch In the House: “I believed myself to be a feminist, and I vowed never to fall into the same trap of domestic boredom and servitude that I saw my mother as being fully entrenched in; never to settle for a life that was, as I saw it, lacking independence, authority, and respect.” –E.S. Maduro, page 5 “Here are a few things people have said about me at the office: ‘You’re unflappable.’ ‘Are you ever in a bad mood?’ Here are things people—okay, the members of my family—have said about me at home: ‘‘Mommy is always grumpy.’ ‘Why are you so tense?’ ‘You’re too mean to live in this house and I want you to go back to work for the rest of your life!’” –Kristin van Ogtrop, page 161 “I didn’t want to be a bad mother I wanted to be my mother-safe, protective, rational, calm-without giving up all my anger, because my anger fueled me.” – Elissa Schappell, page 195

0066211662.01._SX140_SY225_SCLZZZZZZZ_This is an anthology with 26 well known woman writers who discuss about motherhood and marriage and one was on weight.
Feminist lit has come a long way than when it was still in its infancy. The woman have almost everything feminist has fought for and yet they still seem to be missing something. They fell out of touch with what feminism is today. That is not to say this is a sad book. It is not. Far from it. There are undercurrents of anger spread through out the book. All of us are like that right?
I found it refreshing to see woman talk so honestly and candidly about the “bitch” that often emerges in motherhood. All to often we hold this part hidden because “good” mothers are not supposed to feel this way. Which itself is a ridiculous notion because really, when you have a crying baby and are trying to handle a demanding job who is ever going to feel “good enough”? This book explores that concepts well. I agree with what a lot of the woman say, just cause you have it all, does not mean you feel like you have it all. This is an example of how some woman have come to feel disjointed by today’s feminism.
It also explores how in the coming days of a major event a wedding or a baby the couple believes such things like housework to be split evenly. However once the big day arrives it is usually the woman who gets the brunt of doing housework on top of everything else. This is seems to be a source of pride, sort of like super wife or super mom. Again not every woman will feel this way but it is a recurring theme. I also found it refreshing to hear some of the woman talk about taboo subjects. For example a few of the woman were mistresses. That is not something that media talks about openly.
This book was well written especially since it is an anthology. The woman who put all the stories together did well in making all the different stories flow into one another. It did not read as 26 separate stories but rather as a continuum from one story to the next.
This maybe me digging into the symbolism a little to deep but I also feel that this book encompasses the idea that we all are different with our own unique experience but that we can come together as woman and make a beautiful whole, just like this book.