Top 10 Tuesday

Inspired my recent read, A Lady in the Smoke, which features a railway doctor, I thought I would give my Top 10 Books on Medicine that I would recommend. These are mostly non-fiction, but include some fiction as well.

  1. The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee. This one is about cancer, and it’s a truly impressive book from start to finish. I was amazed at the amount of research that went into this. I read it after my dad passed away from cancer, and yet I found it an inspiration to read about all the people who are working so hard to find treatments and one day, even a cure.
  2. In Reckless Hands: Skinner V. Oklahoma and the Near-Triumph of American Eugenics by Victoria F. Nourse. If the last book inspired me, this one enraged me. Eugenics was a big movement for a shockingly long time which culminated in Nazi experiments in the prison camps. But it was big here in the US as well, and could have become law if not for a landmark court case.
  3. The American Plague: The Untold Story of Yellow Fever, the Epidemic that Shaped Our History by Molly Caldwell Crosby. I’ve read a lot of epidemic books, and this is my favorite on yellow fever. I tell you, you’ll be swatting mosquitoes a lot harder after this book!
  4. The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race Against an Epidemic by Gay Salisbury. This is another great one to read this summer when you’re sweltering in the heat. Read about the race through blizzards to get a diphtheria antidote to an isolated community in Alaska and you’ll feel so thankful for vaccines and for air conditioning both.
  5. Aspirin: The Remarkable Story of a Wonder Drug by Diarmuid Jeffreys. From its discovery to Bayer’s shameful Nazi connections to modern research, this covers everything.
  6. Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters by Matt Ridley. I really liked the way this book organized, a chapter for every pair of chromosomes, and a gene from every chromosome. It’s not even a little comprehensive, but it was compelling reading.
  7. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Lacks was a poor Black woman who died of cancer, but her cells live on in research that has saved hundreds of lives. However, that raises questions about the rights of patients in this book that’s now a movie.
  8. The Leper of Saint Giles by Ellis Peters. I love the Brother Cadfael mysteries, but this one is my favorite in the series. Not only is the mystery compelling, but the description of the nursing among the lepers in England, of the disease and its effects is truly moving.
  9. An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears. This one is big. But it’s my favorite look at 17th century medicine. It was a time of great discovery, but also a time of superstition and prejudice. Told from multiple POV, it makes the story more complex.
  10. The Physician by Noah Gordon. An orphan is driven by an urgent need to know how the body works. He makes his way to medieval Palestine so he can study medicine and learn what there is to know.

Review: Murder at Sedgwick Court

Title: Murder at Sedgwick Court, Rose Simpson book 3

Author: Margaret Addison

Genre: historical cozy mystery

Setting: Sedgwick Court, England, 1930

Rose Simpson and her beau, Cedric the Earl of Belvedere, are hoping for some quiet time enjoying each other’s company. (Suitably chaperoned, of course.) But Lady Lavinia, the earl’s sister, comes home from France bringing her own house party with her. A love triangle soon develops and before long, a young woman is murdered. Scotland Yard arrives to investigate, but of course, it’s Rose who solves the case.

These are fun, very light mysteries that are good to read when you want something fluffy. There’s not a lot of substance and certainly no realism, but that’s kind of the point. I enjoyed this one and I’ll probably forget about it within the week.

Book Review: The Tournament of Blood

knight

Title: The Tournament of Blood (Knights Templar #8)

Author: Michael Jecks

Setting: England 1322

If you’ve ever seen a movie with two knights jousting in single combat, you might think you know all about medieval tournaments. You’d be wrong. That was just one event of the whole contest, and the contest itself was only a part of a huge series of events that took place. This book, which cites references for the curious, describes in detail everything that went into the pageantry of a real tournament. Our main character, Sir Baldwin, is a former Knight Templar. By this time in history, though, that order has been declared outlaw and excommunicate, which means that Sir Baldwin is living incognito in rural England, serving as a Keeper of the Peace. (Which is apparently like a sheriff, but not quite.)

Sir Baldwin and his wife are awaiting the birth of their first child, so talk of a tournament doesn’t really interest them. Once the baby girl safely arrives, Baldwin is happy to escape for a few days and join friends. But almost as soon as he gets there, his friend the bailiff Simon Puttock gets into a quarrel with a builder about the stands for the event. Then the builder is found dead. And that’s just the beginning.

Other bodies follow – the builder’s partner, a squire or two. The event was supposed to be a chance for knights to improves their combat skills, for squires to impress and maybe earn a knighthood of their own, for merchants to make some money and for the common people to have a little hard-earned fun. Instead, it’s turning into chaos.

I really enjoy this series. It’s really long and very popular among historical mysteries. This one was bloodier than usual. By the end of the book (slight spoiler) I was surprised by the way justice was administered. It’s a little different from the previous books I’ve read.

If you’re interested in this author, I would recommend starting with the first one, The Last Templar. Some fascinating stuff about the religious order, about the whole issue of holy wars and politics. There’s a lot of religion and politics in these books, so if you like your mysteries to have plenty of meaty historical details, you’d eat these up. I’d give this one 3.9 stars.

Book Review: Revolution

You say you want a revolution, well you know

We all want to change the world.

 

Title: Revolution (The Sixties Trilogy, #2)

Author: Deborah Wiles

Challenge: Women’s History Month, Read Diverse Books

Setting: Mississippi, 1964 – Freedom Summer

Themes: Civil Rights, racial equality, social change, blended families, coming of age

It’s the year when everything changes for three young kids, Sunny, Gillette, and Raymond. It’s a year of revolution, of violence, of triumph, of fear and of hope.

Sunny can’t wait for summer to begin. Swimming at the pool with her friends, going to the movies, listening to The Beatles, visiting her grandma, and going to see A Hard Day’s Night. It’s going to be the best summer of her life.

Until a group of “invaders” come to town and suddenly, her perfect summer becomes something else. People Sunny has known her whole life start acting in new and unpredictable ways. Tempers flare. And the colored folks at the edge of town start showing up in places they’ve never been.

Gillette has a new family, a new father, and a new sister who he just can’t figure out. She doesn’t have any idea how good she’s had it. Meanwhile, he just want wants to play baseball.

Raymond lives in the colored part of town. His parents work at one of the cotton farms, and he helps out by picking cotton in the summer. Now a group of Northerners have come to town and are trying to get everyone riled up. His parents are worried about it, but Raymond figures it’s time for a change. He might be too young to register to vote, but he’s sure like to go to that nice air conditioned movie theater.

I moved around a lot as a kid, mostly living in the Midwest, but also in the South. Never in Mississippi. And as a white woman, I’ve directly experienced racism. But I’ve grown up with it around me, in my schools, in my communities, even in my home. My parents were not overtly racist, but they weren’t perfect either. But I’ve definitely never experienced anything like this.

I loved this book. Her previous book, Countdown, introduced me to the Cuban Missile Crisis. It’s the same style, combining news stories, photography, and storytelling. Don’t be intimidated by the size of these books. The extra content makes them look bigger than they really are, and both books are pretty fast reads. I would definitely recommend this for kids junior high age and up. I’m anxious to read the next one, which I think will be about the Vietnam War.

 

Read Diverse Books Challenge

I love a challenge!

Before the end of the year I blogged about Book Riot’s Read Harder 2017 challenge. But I recently heard about a 2017 challenge from the Read Diverse Books blog. The rules for the link-up are pretty simple.

Eligible books:

  1. Books written by people of color or Native/Indigenous Peoples. 
  2. Books by or about people with disabilities (physical, neurodiversity, etc.)
  3. Books with LGBTQIA protagonists or about LGBTQIA issues 

And I already have my first book!

The King’s Bishop by Candace Robb

Welshman Owen Archer lost an eye during the war between England and  France. The whole story is recounted at least once in every book, although sometimes rather briefly. A one-eyed archer isn’t very effective, so he was offered a position as a spy for John Thoresby, Lord Chancellor of England and Archbishop of York. Archer accepts the job, not realizing that he has forged a relationship which will send him all over the country and determine the course of his future.

Archer’s disability seems to have become merely a fact of life, as far as how he deals with it. He wears an eye patch and he can get around just fine. But when another character asks him if he misses his other eye, Archer replies that he thinks about it every single day. Given the violent nature of war and the primitive state of medicine, such an injury would have been common. What’s remarkable, IMO, is that he survived the treatment and went on to have a productive life. He often worries about what people think when they see him, and in fact, many characters recognize him by this disfigurement. But his baby girl doesn’t even seem to notice, which is about the way most babies would react IRL.

This is the 4th book in the series and it revolves around a political struggle between the pope and king. By now, Archer is married and working as apprentice to  his wife the apothecary. A young page dies while his master is visiting the archbishop and his death might just link back to treason against the crown.

I felt like this one had lots of people, lots of talking, and not as much of the historical detail that makes medieval books good. The whole political situation was just confusing and dull. I appreciate that all the main characters are based on actual historical figures, including the Archbishop, King Edward III of England, his mistress, Alice Perrars, and others. But I was just lost in the political maneuvering. It probably didn’t help that I was a little distracted while reading this one, but I don’t think I’ll read any more by this author.

My other current reads are Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerhill, Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett, and Rain: A Natural and Cultural History by Cynthia Barnett.