Review: Twelve Diseases That Changed Our World by Irwin W. Sherman

Twelve Diseases That Changed Our World
Twelve Diseases That Changed Our World by Irwin W. Sherman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A highly accessible account of how past epidemics have changed human history, this book is a must-read if you’re at all curious about the development of medicine, public health or diseases.

Sherman has a great way of explaining complex ideas in an entry-level way which puts this book miles ahead of similar ones in the same genre as he guides you through how diseases have impacted on development and both the pros and cons that the disease has brought with it in history.
Sherman also provides explanations on how these twelve diseases have been portrayed in different cultures and the effect this then had on the legacy of the disease. When read alongside C. Rosenberg’s article, ‘What is an Epidemic?’, this book is a great foundation to start from when learning about what epidemics are and was invaluable to a university module I studied on that topic.

The book could’ve benefitted with some primary sources such as images and newspapers to liven it up a little and break up the dense chunks of texts while still keeping on topic but it is written in such a concise style that this is only a minor point.

All in all, a very enlightening read that will be of interest to students of most disciplines due to the sheer reach and impact of the diseases covered. I only wish that I’d read it far sooner!

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Review: Stuart: A Life Backwards by Alexander Masters

Stuart: A Life Backwards
Stuart: A Life Backwards by Alexander Masters

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Intensely emotional, this biographical book is like a puzzle with each piece of new information more agonising to read than the last.

It made me laugh, cry and view the world in a slightly different way once I’d reached the end all the while teaching some valuable yet hard-to-hear lessons about humanity and struggle.
Alexander Masters tells the life story of Stuart, a difficult character with a fascinating story and background, by starting at Stuart in the present and working back to his childhood, chapter by chapter. This rare set-up provides insight into how life’s turns can take us down very different paths and is a haunting read that will stay with you long after you’ve finished it. Its simplicity and somewhat misleading beginning draws the reader into a journey they’ll never forget, stick in with this book through to the very end and it will be one of the most life-changing novels that you will ever read.

This book isn’t a light-hearted read by any means and should be picked up with caution as it has some harrowing scenes.
Definitely a book everyone should read at some point in their lives.

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Review: Summer Knight (Dresden Files #4) by Jim Butcher

Summer Knight
Summer Knight by Jim Butcher

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Finally an instalment in the Dresden Files series that I can confidently give a 5 star rating to!

Throughout my progress on the series so far I’ve met many reviewers saying ‘it gets good around book 3/4/5/6’ (the number varies massively depending on who you ask), and at long last I’ve found where in the series that moment happens for me and it’s here, right with this book which fortunately for me, is almost unrecognisable from the confusion and incoherence that was Grave Peril.

So why such a big turnaround?

First of all, Harry Dresden gets some long-awaited character development beyond the overly done funny-underdog-saves-the-day-by-a-hair’s-breadth-and-is-at-the-brink-of-death-two-dozen-times (phew!) formula that Jim Butcher keeps on winging out for him. Now we’re treated to only a little of self-pitying instead of being swamped by it and this alone does great things for Dresden’s likeability. We’re also introduced to much stronger and more interesting characters than Butcher has ever given us in the past and seeing Harry’s reactions to these gives a solid plus in his direction. It’s nice as well to see some old faces in the book – their personalities really took on a realistic shape thanks to the intricacy of the plot (more on that later).

Secondly, the humour in the books is either improving greatly or I’ve finally became used to it! It took some time to see it as anything other than cliché and cheesy action-hero lines but in Summer Knight Butcher finally takes the humour a little further and pulls it off to great effect.

Thirdly, the plot! Wow did this book get intricate! A far-cry away from the previously simplistic plots of figuring out the bad guy and taking said bad-guy down via several drawn out action scenes (view spoiler), Summer Knight’s plot takes on a much more ambitious storyline and manages to make it work throughout the entire book. I must admit, I was a little lost-off around 200 pages towards the end but I soon managed to pick up on what was going on thanks to brilliant pacing and plot development.

Last but not least…

How much more incredible does the magical world get in this book? You need to read it to believe it. I didn’t think the series would ever go beyond anything more than ‘whodunit’ with a pinch of magic thrown in for variety but instead, it becomes much much more.

Finally this series is starting to live up to the hype that surrounds it by giving us a glimpse of where Jim Butcher’s world-building talent lies. I can’t wait to move onto to Death Masks and see what more adventures Harry Dresden has in store for us!

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