Very, Very, Very Dreadful by Albert Marrin

Genre: Nonfiction
Secondary Genre: history, world history
CW: health, death

This poorly titled book1 covers the history of the Spanish Flu (I’ve been reading about it a lot. For many reasons). I wasn’t super keen about it at first, but I’m really glad I didn’t DNF.

The first chapters start off slow, and the author seems confused about what age group he’s talking about. On the one hand, he discusses higher concepts, but on the other he stops mid-text to define words like “archaeology” and “pus.” This introduction is followed up by a chapter on pre-history and how diseases impacted ancient nomadic populations. I don’t think we got to pertinent information until about the 20% mark, at which point I would normally DNF a book if it doesn’t hold my attention. Life is too short for bad books.

I’m glad I didn’t, however. The best part about this book is the way it doesn’t merely focus on American/British/Allied nations during WWI and the Spanish Flu, but takes an equal look at South America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, particularly India, which was the hardest hit of any country. The author even discussed the effect on Axis nations, and despite all the research I’ve done, very few English language books spare a thought for countries other than America, England, France, and occasionally Australia, let alone the countries they were fighting.

Finally, the last chapter of the book looks to the future of disease control and evolution, and was absolutely fascinating. If you are looking for an international overview of the 1918 epidemic, this would be a really good book to pick up; it’s not super long, and you can probably skip first two chapters without actually missing anything.

1 The title actually comes from a statement quoted in the book, but personally I would have picked something a bit more…punchy.

Miss Violet and the Great War by Leanna Renee Hieber

Genre: historical
Secondary genre: paranormal/war
Format read: audiobook
CW: violence
Rep: mental health

Leanna’s books are so hard for me to review, because I know her personally. We attend the same con, work on the same panels, chat over Twitter, and exchange the occasional letter or email. I love her personality, her vibrancy, and the messages she includes in her work.

That being said, we have vastly different storytelling styles, and while I like the broad strokes she paints, the line-by-line details aren’t really my cup of tea, mostly because I keep thinking about how I would edit the book differently (this is a hazard of being an author; it’s hard to read for pleasure without thinking about how you would change a book).

Set on the eve of the WWI, Violet represents the third generation in the Hieberverse. Her parents fought evil and won. Time for the happily ever after, right?

But since childhood Violet has been plagued by horrible nightmares of men in pits, explosions, and gunfire. It’s not until war breaks out between England and Germany, however, that she realizes these dreams are her calling: to stop the evil her parents defeated from leaking back into the land of the living, she must travel to France and the epicenter of the fighting and attempt to put it to rest once and for all.

Filled with a host of characters readers will recognize from her earlier novels, Miss Violet and the Great War is a part stand alone and part sequel. There’s no need to read the previous books, but you will get more out of this one if you are familiar with the Percy Parker series.

My biggest complaint when reading this was the winding path it took. I’m more action oriented in my books, so I thought, being a war book, this would be a lot punchier from the start. If action isn’t your thing, though, you’ll enjoy the emotional arc of this story as it works through Percy’s childhood, up through the war.