Rejoice! We have some Lightning Reviews this Sunday and wow, what an assortment.
We have some medical non-fiction and a new YA graphic novel with a Jewish superhero. We also have a hockey romance from one of our reviewer’s favorite series!
author: Lydia Kang
After I reviewed Opium and Absinthe by Lydia Kang, M.D., one of our commenters requested that I review Lydia Kang’s nonfiction book, Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything (co-written by Nate Pedersen). Well, gosh, it’s a sacrifice, but if I MUST read a book full of weird historical semi-medical remedies for things like Bubonic Plague, well, then I guess I must.
I do it for you, Bitches.
Quackery is what I call a good bathroom book. It has tiny short sections in the event that one’s visit to the lavatory is a brief one, but is interesting enough to hold my attention when I’m trapped there for a long time (I have medical issues, none of which I plan to treat with any of the cures mentioned in this book). If I MUST spend so much time upon the porcelain throne, I like to at least leave with the satisfaction of knowing that I learned something while I was there, such as the fact that Hitler consumed a lot of mercury orally and had chamomile tea enemas. Would history have been different if he had ditched the mercury and drank the tea?
The most glaring flaw of the book is that it is both too much and not enough of a good thing. The book has generously-sized type and a lot of illustrations, but it still only comes to 330 pages. The chapters are “The Elements,” “Plants and Soil,” “Tools,” “Animals,” and “Mysterious Powers,” with 5 – 8 subheadings in each chapter. This means that the reader gets a little information about a lot of topics, and I would have liked for the book to go more in depth in every section. There is an index, but I could have used a dictionary as well. Most medical terms are explained in the course of the book, but a few fell through the cracks.
On the other hand, this book does include some sublime illustrations, assuming that one considers drawings of amputation techniques to be sublime. I’m especially fond of the illustration detailing the anatomy of leeches, which are still used (sparingly) today. The book isn’t exactly gory (given all that bloodletting, not much blood actually appears in the pages), but the photos of surgical instruments are terrifying. Also of note: the reader gets a close-up view of scrofula growths, so this is not a book for the squeamish.
I recommend this book to people who enjoy trivia, the stranger the better, in the areas of history, science vs. pseudoscience, and medicine. This book works especially well if you want something that’s easy to pick up and put down, and that will neither insult your intelligence nor make you work too hard. I wish this book had gone more in depth with regard to its many, barely detailed topics, but it works well as an entry point for hours of Googling.
Quackery was written prior to the COVID-19 epidemic, but it is horrifyingly relevant as contemporary modern quackery abounds and flourishes. The field of medicine is constantly changing, but some things have been definitively proven, using the highest standards of testing and investigation. Seeing where we’ve been and how far we’ve come in terms of improving medical treatment and disease prevention through short pieces of history was very reassuring.
– Carrie S
author: Rachel Reid
I love Rachel Reid’s work, particularly this series. I’ve reviewed Common Goal and read a couple others in the Gamechangers series. I’m delighted to report that this book was lovely while I read it. I devoured it in a single sitting and I smiled goofily while reading it, but as soon as the book was complete, I all but forgot about it. And sometimes that’s exactly what I want from a book: a few glorious hours of distraction and then no lingering book hangover.
Troy Barrett is a dickhead and that’s a pretty widely accepted fact, until he stands up to his best friend who has been accused of sexual assault. The video of this confrontation goes viral and Troy finds himself traded to the worst hockey team in the League: the Ottawa Centaurs. Troy wasn’t wrong, but he challenged the status quo and this is his punishment for finally not being a dickhead.
When Troy meets Harris Drover, the Centaur’s social media manager, it’s not a case of sparks flying. Troy is completely blindsided by how comfortable Harris is with his own sexuality. The initial interactions between Harris and Troy are wonderfully awkward, and the more Troy interacts with Harris, the more Troy evolves from this seemingly bigoted hockey player to an out-and-proud gay man. It’s the emotional growth underpinning this transformation that was so wonderful to read.
The conflict between them is minimal, as the story is mostly focused on Troy’s personal evolution. There’s no bleak moment or dire problem; spending time with the characters themselves provided the momentum to keep me reading.
This is a series that to a limited extent builds on itself, so it is worth reading the books in order. You’ll be able to catch up with characters from previous novels and their extended HEAs are a joy. But it is also true that I’ve not read these books in order, nor have I read all the books in the series. While this negatively affects my reading experience slightly, I wouldn’t describe it as a massive barrier. So if you haven’t read the others, you’ll be fine. And if you need an afternoon of quiet smiling into a book that hums with emotional sincerity and growth, then this is the book for you.
author: E. Lockhart
Whistle is the latest YA Graphic novel from DC, and like other books in this run it emphasizes social justice and inclusion. In this book, a Jewish high school student takes care of her mom (who has cancer), works at an animal shelter, attends school, flirts with a cute boy, and participates in protests to try to keep gentrification from erasing her neighborhood of Down River in Gotham City.
Her life changes when she meets E. Nigma and his friend Pammie Isley, and then starts working for E.Nigma. In this capacity she makes big money, but also realizes that E.Nigma is gentrifying her neighborhood and that she is complicit because she works for him.
Will Willow fight for her community? GUESS!
Yes! She will!
I enjoyed this book for daring to show that Willow is not a perfect saint and that E. Nigma and Pammie Isley are charming and genuinely friendly. However, the real draw of this comic is Willow’s bond with Lebowitz, a Great Dane that becomes her loyal sidekick. This is a really fun story for anyone who loves dogs. Although there is a scene in which Willow and Lebowitz are both hurt, they recover with some new and special abilities that lead to hilarity.
The art by Manuel Peitano is bright, active, and realistic, full of city grime but also bright colors and fashion. If Lebowitz will forgive me for saying so, this is a pure catnip book – I’m just never NOT going to love a superhero who rides a skateboard to crime scenes and whistles for backup from all the dogs in town (hence her superhero name, Whistle).
The book is solid fun, which frankly I need more of these days anyway. But I felt that, even for a superhero comic, too many plot points remained dangling. It’s common for superhero stories to end with cliffhangers, but this story felt different. Instead of leaving with a plot cliffhanger, it wrapped up a full origin story character arc except for the most important plot points – Willow struggles to make time for romance and she struggles with having to lie to everyone around her. Also, can you really fight armed, organized criminals by using kickboxing, pepper spray and earnest speeches? I am dubious, and also concerned for the safety of our young crime fighter.
I recommend this as a fun read that tackles some big issues but remains optimistic in tone. I especially recommend it to dog people. We do get to hear Lebowitz’s inner thoughts and they are a treat!
– Carrie S