Review: Social Anxiety by Grant Anderson

 Stories of Those With Social Anxiety And How They Overcame Shyness


Title: Social Anxiety

Subtitle: Stories of Those With Social Anxiety And How They Overcame Shyness

Author: Grant Anderson

Genre: Non-Fiction, Psychology, Self-Help

Year of Publication: 2015

Rating: 5/5 stars

In a world where social interactions are crucial, whether you are involved in your school or college projects, at work with your colleagues or practically anywhere else, you need to have social skills if you want to be noticed. But what happens with those people who don’t feel comfortable around new people or in social situations that seem normal for most of us? Things, like speaking in public or eating with your boss and colleagues, are very challenging and stressful for those suffering from social anxiety disorder, those who feel more comfortable avoiding certain situations than confronting them.

As a shy and socially anxious person myself, I picked up Grant Anderson‘s book Social Anxiety: Stories of Those With Social Anxiety And How They Overcame Shyness hoping that I will learn how to be more confident and, if possible, not make a fool of myself that often when I’m speaking in front of a group of people, as it usually happens. However, the best part about reading this book is that the author himself suffered from social anxiety, but he worked very hard to overcome his biggest fears. So come with me on a journey where you will learn more about this life threatening disorder because it can easily ruin your social life and I guess that nobody wants that.

Mr Anderson’s book comprises of an introduction, four chapters with several subchapters, a conclusion and two bonuses. Because this is a nonfiction book, I’m going to briefly present the chapters and the sub-chapters in order to let you decide if this book is for you or not. In the Introduction we learn that millions of people suffer from social anxiety, being unable to control their fear regarding social situations and to live a normal life. As I mentioned before, the author himself suffered from this disorder, but he sought professional help, tried many methods of treatment and reduced his anxiety. Now he is a psychologist who supports people who are struggling with the same problem as he did. Anderson shares with the readers what he knows about social anxiety and how other people learnt to break free from it.

The first chapter is An Introduction to Social Anxiety, a mental disorder that usually occurs between adolescence and early adulthood and it seems to be a result of a combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors linked to the way a person’s brain is wired, emotional traumas or “being overprotected as a youth and not forming proper skills to deal with social situations” (Loc. 124). The psychologist also presents a few lists of the main triggers of social anxiety, emotional symptoms, physical symptoms and behavioural symptoms from which you can highlight the responses your mind and body gives you in certain stressful social situations you encounter. I have to say that it feels a little strange when you read about things you experienced several times in your life, but admitting that you have a problem is part of the process, as Mr Anderson wrote. He also advises us to seek professional help in order to understand how severe our disorder is and what type of treatment works for us.

In the second chapter, the author presents the methods of treatment and medication for social anxiety disorder. The methods of treatment the psychologist talks about are: Challenging Negative ThoughtsLearning to Control Your Breath, Facing Your FearsBuild Stronger RelationshipsChange Your Lifestyle and CBT – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. In the third chapter, you can read about Social Anxiety Setbacks and Maintaining Your Progress. Your problem will not go away in the first sessions of therapy or in a few days after you begin practising the techniques mentioned above. Though the skills you achieved through time can keep your anxiety under control – if the treatment is constant – the slips or setbacks will occur, but you can overcome them by analysing each thought rationally and seeing if it is worth worrying about your fear or dark scenario. Avoiding negativity in these situations is very important for your progress. The fourth chapter is about Social Anxiety Triggers And Stories on How People Were Able to Overcome Them and there is also a Conclusion and two bonuses at the end of the book, which I’ll let you discover on your own.

To wrap it up, this book was amazing and I’m glad that I read it at the perfect time in my life. Even though I knew a few techniques to control my anxiety, the down-to-earth language used by the author, the style and the examples he gives, they really make me feel better and makes me believe that my fear of public speaking can be defeated through perseverance and support.   

Review: The Black Death and The Dancing Mania by Justus Friederich Karl Hecker

Title: The Black Death and The Dancing Mania

Author: Justus Friederich Karl Hecker

Translated by Benjamin Guy Babington

Genre: Non-Fiction. History, Medicine

First Published in 1832

Year of Publication of this Edition: 2011

Published by Cassell & Co.

Rating 5/5 stars

Ever since I’ve heard about the Black Death and the Dancing Mania — in history class or in the Horrible Histories TV series — I wanted to understand better how they appeared, why, which were the symptoms of these odd diseases and how they died out.

The book I’m going to talk about today comprises of two studiesThe Black Death and The Dancing Mania — written by the German Professor of Medicine Justus Friederich Karl Hecker, also is considered the father of historical pathology. In these two works published in 1832, the  physician analyzes the main characteristics of the two pandemics, the causes which led the way to their spreading, the diseases viewed from the religious perspective, their various forms, the cures or procedures used by famous doctors of the Middle Ages and the way in which these diseases affected the human mind.

Even though Prof. Hecker doesn’t say anything about rats or fleas — which carried the plague from Asia to Europe and Africa — he gives an account of how the plague manifested itself in different countries of the world. Documents show that some people died from respiratory problems while others had blisters and buboes on their skin – located especially in the axilla and in the groin area – or other victims bled through the nose or other anatomical orifices. Through incisions and the opening of the buboes, some patients recovered, but these procedures took place towards the period when the epidemic began to decrease.

From a psychological and religious point of view, people saw the Black Death as a punishment sent from God, in order to make them pay for their sins. Medieval people, especially those from the lower ranks of the feudal system, were strong believers in supernatural phenomena because they were illiterate and poor, living in filth and ignorance. They were rude and their minds were subdued by the Church, which was very powerful. Meanwhile, the kings and noblemen lived in luxury and debauchery without caring too much for their subjects.

Due to the circumstances mentioned above, it is impossible to know the exact number of plague victims, but in the main European cities somewhere around ~10.000 and 100.000 people died. Because of this huge number of deaths, the deceased were randomly buried in large pits or in layers or even thrown into the river – such was the case in Avignon. Hecker writes that some plague victims were buried alive because of the general hysteria regarding the pandemic. Eventually, the pestilence died out and most of the towns and cities were depopulated or some were even abandoned because people had fled after the disease broke out, leaving behind sick children, parents, relatives and friends.

The Dancing Mania appeared in Western Europe and it probably had its roots in the human psyche. It might have been a negative mental response to the Black Death. During convulsions, the victims moved uncontrollably as in a dance, had hallucinations regarding religion, shouted and eventually fell with exhaustion or even dropped dead. People used to gather in public places to see the gruesome scenes and some of the spectators caught the mysterious dancing virus; therefore they joined the group affected by the disease. Priests began to perform exorcisms on the people possessed by the strange illness – known also as St. John’s Dance or St. Vitus’s dance – and that proved to be effective. The physician believes that the Dancing Mania might be an ‘ancestor’ of epilepsy, chorea and of hysteria. A particular branch of this unusual mania manifested itself in Italy — spreading from Apulia to the entire country — and it was called Tarantism, the cause of the illness being the bite of a tarantula.

In the last chapter, Professor Hecker reveals other lesser known mental disorders, convulsions and hysterical fits which alarmed people from certain communities during the seventeenth and nineteenth century. The examples the author gives show that women were most affected because: “Now every species of enthusiasm, every strong affection, very violent passion may lead to convulsions — to mental disorders — to a concussion of the nerves, from the sensorium to the very finest extremities of the spinal cord” (Page 127). It sounds a bit like hysteria, doesn’t it?  Well, I’m not a medical student to tell if Hecker was right or wrong about those mysterious diseases, but we mustn’t forget that the affected women usually belonged to the lower class. Who knows how hard and how many hours a day they were working and in what terrible conditions they lived?  In this chapter you will also find three awkward manias which resemble St. John’s Dance, fanatical sects, such as the Convulsionnaires in France and the Jumpers in Britain, religious ecstasy and the terrifying treatments of the convulsive people.

I will end this review here, hoping that it was an interesting read for you and I invite you to look through these two fascinating works of Justus Friederich Karl Hecker, if these subjects interest you

Review: The Essential Book Blog: by Ken J. Howe, Saul W. Tanpepper, Michael Guerini and Cheryl L. Seaton

The Complete Bibliophile’s Toolkit for Building, Growing and Monetizing Your On-Line Book-Lover’s Community: A Guide for Writers and Readers 

Volume 1 of Brainstorm Guides


Title: The Essential Book Blog:

Subtitle: The Complete Bibliophile’s Toolkit for Building, Growing and Monetizing Your On-Line Book-Lover’s Community: A Guide for Writers and Readers

Authors: Ken J. Howe, Saul W. Tanpepper, Michael Guerini and Cheryl L. Seaton

Genre: Non-Fiction, Blogging

Year of Publication: 2012

Published by: Brinestone Press

Series: Brinestone Guides

Rating:  4/5 stars

After writing book reviews and other articles for for three years , I decided that it was high time to build and manage a blog of my own, not only to review books I enjoy or dislike but to befriend other book bloggers, to build a community of readers and to take my passion to a whole new level. Therefore, with this plan in mind, I began doing a bit of research and I found the book I’m going to talk about today: The Essential Book Blog written by Ken J. Howe,  Saul W. Tanpepper, Michael Guerini and Cheryl L. Seaton.

The structure of the book is as follows: an introduction, eight main sections in which the topics of this guide are discussed, parts which include subtopics marked by capital letters and those subtopics contain smaller subdivisions marked by numbers and low case letters; the eighth part includes three appendixes, there’s a small section informing the reader about the authors who wrote and contributed to this book and there’s a note regarding services and products mentioned in the guide through hyperlinks.

In the Introduction, we learn that this guide is not only for amateur and semi-professional book bloggers, but also for authors who want to familiarise oneself with the book-selling industry, which is constantly changing as well as the way we read, books, but also the book community of readers itselfBook reviews play an important role in the reading community and that’s why they “are the foundations upon which people discover, share, and sell books in this new digital publishing era.” (Loc. 234) In other words, book reviews are crucial for any writer because they have a great impact on the best-seller charts through the power of the Internet, a blog and Social Media. Whether you write book reviews for pleasure or for profit, this guide will help you understand the process of book reviewing and give you the resources to succeed in your book blogging journey.

If bibliophiles of the past gathered in small groups in cafés, parks or private homes where they could share their reading experiences, now, thanks to the Internet, there is a plethora of websites, blogs, social platforms and groups dedicated to certain books (fandoms I would add), where book lovers can share their opinions about their favourite books with other avid readers from around the world, regardless of their background, nationality or religion.

“Along the way, these new book-lovers are forging new friendships, interacting with other readers and authors in ways never before possible and only imagined, and, most exciting of all, becoming part of a worldwide marketplace where the pleasure of reading and sharing books can also be income-generating.” (Loc. 261-263).

This book teaches every reader (reviewer, blogger or author) “the fundamentals of book sharing through the art of book reviews” (Loc. 274) from how to write a review, to reach out to other reviewers, to create an online presence, to grow your community, getting (free) books to review and earn money ethically while pursuing your passion. And authors will learn how to get more reviews by reaching out to potential readers through book reviewers.

I enjoyed reading this book a lot because the writing is plain and simple, sometimes humorous, the explanations are clear and the writers give tons of useful tips on building your blog, writing reviews, getting traffic and exposure, making your blog profitable and so on and so forth. There are a lot of things I’ve learned from this guide and I will surely reread some of the sections and apply some of the tips to my blog to make it more user-friendly for my followers and potential readers. The only downside of this guide is that it was published a few years ago and some pieces of advice might be irrelevant in the future because the Internet is constantly changing too through new trends and Social Media. Also, some of the links from the book don’t show the source anymore. However, the overall experience of reading this book was amazing and I highly recommend this guide to new book bloggers.

Before I wrap it up, tell me how is your blogging journey so far?


Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag

I actually had a book review planned for this Friday, but I changed my mind because June and July are two crazy months for me, so I opted again for a book tag which suits this time of the year. Plus, I’m always happy to talk about the current state of my TBR pile.

The Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag was created by two booktubers (Chami and Ety) and it comprises of fourteen questions, mostly regarding the books you read in the first half of the year. I read twenty-six books until now including the dnf-ed ones, so I think that I have enough material to answer properly to each and every question.

1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2017.

This year I wanted to read all the first instalments in the series I own because I plan to continue only the series or trilogies I’ve found unique and enjoyable to explore further on. For the best book I’ve read until now I choose The Essential Book Blog by Ken J. Howe, Saul Tanpepper, Michael Guerini and Cheryl L. Seaton, which is an easy yet informative guide for each new book blogger or newbie author and it teaches you anything from how to build your own blog, what your review should include, how to get traffic on your blog, how to get books and even how to earn money through your blog. Personally, I can’t wait to review this blogging guide and reread some of the sections in order to apply them to my blog.

2. Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2017.


At the beginning of this year, I promised myself that I will not be as generous as I used to be with the 5-star ratings and by far, there are just three books that had the wow factor I was looking for. The first 5-star sequel I rated in 2017 is Escape from Sudan, the 9th book in Mike WellsLust, Money & Murder series because I was on pins and needles while reading this book. It really was a roller-coaster of emotions for me and Elaine’s (almost impossible) mission through such a war-torn and dangerous country made my adrenaline levels increase.

3. New release you haven’t read yet, but want to.

I’m not very interested in new releases for now because I have a lot of unread books sitting and collecting dust on my shelves and many eBooks on my Kindle too; so I prefer to stick to those.

4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year.

I read Mike Wells’ blurb for Panacea, the 11th book in the Lust, Money & Murder series, which is set in Ukraine and the book, is going to be released in September. This is the only sequel I’m excited to devour.

5.  Biggest disappointment.


Well, I have a few disappointments and dislikes reflected on my ratings and on my dnf-ed shelf, but the biggest one came from an author I haven’t read before. I’m sorry for the repetition, but I was extremely disappointed by Isabel Allende’s Zorro. How can a book about California’s famous bandit be so boring with so many info-dumps, lifeless characters and no hook? I loved the fact that Diego is mixed-race, but besides that, his friendship with Bernardo and how his father met his mother, I didn’t find anything of interest in the chapters I read.

6. Biggest surprise.


The biggest surprise was The Rocker Who Holds Me by Terri Anne Browning, a book which didn’t deal only with the dissolute lives of rock stars, but also with abuse, heartache and lack of communication. I really love it and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys rock star romances.

7. Favourite new author. (Debut or new to you)

My new favourite author is K K Allen who wrote Enchanted, the first instalment in The Summer Solstice. Besides her beautiful and visual writing, I enjoyed spending my time with her well-built characters, the plot was extremely interesting and the elemental magic blew my mind along with its complexity. The ancient wisdom passed on to Katrina is a combination of Greek myths and Wiccan beliefs. For those of you who are wondering, the review is coming soon.

8. Newest fictional crush.

Nik from The Rocker Who Holds Me might be a potential fictional crush because he is talented, caring and a very hot guy, but he makes Emmie suffer a lot. On the other hand, she is afraid to talk about her feelings for him.

9. Newest favourite character.

I’m currently reading The Lady of the Pier trilogy written by Effrosyni Moschoudi and though I root for both protagonists of the two alternating stories, Sofia Aspioti is very dear to my heart, not just because she is Greek, but she is also a book nerd, a hardworking student, an animal lover and she also writes poetry. She is shy and very cautious because she is aware that everything she does might reach her strict father’s ears, an overprotective parent who forbids her to stay out late or to do anything silly. Despite the restrictions that suffocate her life, Sofia longs for freedom and adventure especially after meeting Danny, an outgoing and non-conformist British tourist whose laid back attitude makes Sofia fall for him.

10. Book that made you cry.

Though I’ve shed a tear occasionally when I read about Sofia’s kind and loving grandparents from Corfu who reminded me of my own, none of the books I’ve picked up in the first half of the year made me cry hysterically for a certain character or situation.

11. Book that made you happy.


It’s hard to say that one of my recent reads made me feel happy, but You & Me Forever is a collection of romantic YA and NA stories written by eight authors including Megan Linski and Pamita Rao, a book that made me feel good most of the time because the short stories range from sweet to dark and they are easy to read especially while you are travelling. I highly recommend it for the summer.

12. Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)

I adore the new covers for The Lady of the Pier trilogy; they are so gorgeous and suit the novels perfectly with that beautiful and mysterious woman standing on the pier.

13. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

Besides the books mentioned above, I want to continue reading the two remaining novels from the Try a Chapter Book Tag and afterwards to flip through or even reread some classics I’ve read a few years ago, but I haven’t reviewed yet.

 14. Favourite Book Community Member

For now, I’ll give a shoutout to my best friend and awesome reviewer, Elena from who has great tastes in books and movies. Check out her website and show her some love!

If you enjoyed this book tag, give it a try and leave your answers below in a comment or through a link to your blog or YouTube channel. Have an awesome weekend! See you next time!

Review: Wicked Words by Terry Deary

Title: Wicked Words

Author: Terry Deary

Illustrator: Martin Brown                

Genre: Non-Fiction, History, Children’s Books, Humour

First Published: 1996

Year of Publication of this Edition: 2013

Publisher: Scholastic Non-Fiction

Collection: Horrible Histories Special

Rating: 3/5 stars

Though I’m no stranger to the English language, I was still curious to read what Terry Deary had to say about it, the origins of some of its words and the great writers who influenced and changed its shape for ever. As you already know from the title, today I’m going to review Terry Deary’s Wicked Words, the third Horrible Histories book I’ve read this year.

In the Introduction, we are told that words are power and they can hurt as deep as a sword. But, In order to gain this power and learn how to use it, we have to read this book. So, the purpose of this short volume is to make the young readers be both accustomed to and entertained by the English language and its secrets. Before the timeline, there’s a chapter dedicated to prehistoric times, the first language humans spoke (which made the difference between our survival and extinction) and what archaeological findings reveal about this topic. The Horrible Histories timeline for the English language stretches from Rome’s rule over Britain to the 20th century. But it also includes Gutenberg’s printing press, two of the most influential English writers and Dr Samuel Johnson’s English dictionary.

The table of content of this book is arranged alphabetically and each letter comprises a chapter or two and an aspect of the English language. Personally, I would have preferred the chronological order because it was strange to read about Dickens before Shakespeare. But let’s move on. In this book, you will read about the history of the English language (divided into six brief parts), Anglo-Saxon literature, stylistic literary devices such as alliteration, great English writers and poets such as Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens, William Caxton, words and their etymologies, euphemisms, slang words, swear words and many more. You will also find fragments from, Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Vision of Piers Plawman, The Canterbury Tales, Macbeth, A Tale of Two Cities, A Christmas Carol etc. However, but beware, the endings of these literary works are spoiled in this book; so skip those parts if you haven’t read them yet.

In the end, I think that this book is great for children who are interested in language and grammar because Terry Deary explains everything clearly and inserts jokes, games riddles and stories along the way. For me, on the other hand, this book didn’t have a lot of new information to offer because I already knew enough about the English language and its history. Also, I wasn’t a big fan of the football metaphor for the various invasions of Britain, but I guess it might work for younger readers. Overall, it was a nice read, so please give this book a try, if you or your kids are into languages and British humour.

Review: Vile Victorians by Terry Deary

Title: Vile Victorians

Author: Terry Deary

Illustrator: Martin Brown

Genre: Non-Fiction, History, Children’s Books, Humour

First Published in 1994

Year of Publication of this Edition: 2011

Publisher: Scholastic Non-Fiction

Collection: Horrible Histories

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Of all the Horrible Histories books I own, I was mostly excited to read Vile Victorians because some of my favourite writers belong to this period and because the 19th century is fascinating to me. With these ideas in mind and with child-like anticipation, I picked up Terry Deary’s book hoping to learn new and disgusting things that happened during Queen Victoria’s reign.

 In the Introduction, Terry Deary writes that there are two kinds of histories: the horrible history and the glorious history. It really depends on the teacher if one chooses to relate the truth about that certain period or one is carried away by the great deeds of the remarkable people from the past. Also, the author warns the reader that this book is not suited for sensitive persons; therefore: “If you have a weak stomach then don’t read it or, if you have to read it, then read it with your eyes closed.” (Loc. 27) Now, this is the funniest disclaimer I’ve ever read. However, I think that such a warning would have been necessary before the first chapter of Horrible Histories Gruesome Guide: London too because that book really grossed me out.

The Vile Victorians’ timeline stretches from Queen Victoria’s coronation in 1837 to her death in 1902 and the author highlights the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of this historical era. In this book, you will read about: Queen Victoria, Victorian childhood and its hardships, Victorian schools, games, Victorian literature, aspects of Victorian life (towns, work and funerals), strange food, Victorian army, villains and so on.

Although I was very excited to read this book, it didn’t impress me as much as I’ve expected to because I already knew some of the information about Victorian Britain from the Horrible Histories TV show I watched a few years ago. Indeed, there are a lot of shocking facts that you probably didn’t know and some are very hard to believe, but if you read at least one of Charles Dickens’s novels, you will notice how hard life was for the poor and for the children living in London and in other parts of Britain. Small kids were forced to work in warehouses or in mines for many hours, putting their health at risk and their lives in danger for very few money. On the other hand, Victorian schools weren’t any better either, because teachers were very harsh and the pupils were usually punished for insignificant reasons. Another topic I’ve found both interesting and sad was the way girls were selected to become maids in the Victorian household and the schedule a maid had from the moment she was awake to her bedtime.

Besides Terry Deary’s jovial and witty style, I enjoyed the way he mocks writers playwright and poet for the excessive melodrama found in their works and he also gives some examples, including a small excerpt from Dickens’ novel The Old Curiosity Shop. There are also a few stories that will break your heart and question the sanity of adults and human nature in general.

In the end, Terry Deary concludes that the Victorian age wasn’t overall that bad because Britain had electricity and cars at the turn of the century. The author believes that the following quote from A Tale of Two Cities would have described Victorian Britain perfectly, not only France and its tumultuous Revolution: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”(Loc. 1300)

Review: London by Terry Deary

Title: London

Author: Terry Deary

Illustrator: Martin Brown                 

Genre: Non-Fiction, History, Children’s Books, Humour

First Published: 2005

Year of Publication of this Edition: 2012

Publisher: Scholastic Non-Fiction

Collection: Horrible Histories Gruesome Guides

Rating: 4/5 stars

The first time I’ve begun reading a few pages from Horrible Histories Gruesome Guides: London was some years ago before visiting Britain’s capital. However, when I came back, other books caught my attention, so I left it unfinished for a while. In March I finally picked it up again feeling determined to finish it.

In the introduction, Terry Deary puts side by side two testimonials of two priests regarding the London of 1190, which are complete opposites. What does that tell us about history? It is never accurate because everyone sees the world through one’s perspective. In order to understand how people really lived in London throughout the centuries, “this book will only tell you the horrible bits of London’s history –about the bad, not the brave, the horrible, not the happy, the dreadful, disgusting and dirty, not the dear, drippy and delightful.” (Loc. 40-41)

And this book was gruesome indeed with a timeline that stretches from Ancient times to the Victorian era. You will read about legends linked to London and its history, interesting facts about The Tower of London, how horrible people treated animals for their entertainment in the Middle Ages and not only then, criminals and executions, ten dangerous and dirty jobs in London, stories about abused children and forced labour, some bits of information about some iconic buildings in London London’s underground and so on. Every time period has something interesting or disgusting to reveal. Besides the funny illustrations made by Martin Brown, there’s also a map of historical London at the end of the book.

Though the Horrible Histories books are usually very whimsical and you learn new thing while having fun, taking tests and laughing out loud at the jokes the author cracks, this time I think that the gruesomeness surpassed the humour because the animal beatings and fights, the stories about criminals and executions and those about child abuse, filth and disease made my stomach turn. However, I understand the purpose of this book. Usually, we learn at school about the bright side of history and about the brave or brilliant people who changed the world; but there’s also a darker or filthier side of history that is more appealing to us because it revolves around the ordinary people – the sick, the orphan the illiterate and the poor.

What do you think about this book? Have you read it? Leave your answers below.

Review: Terrible Tudors by Terry Deary

Title: Terrible Tudors

Author: Terry Deary

Illustrator: Martin Brown

Genre: Non-Fiction, History, Children’s Books, Humour

First Published in 1993

Year of Publication of this Edition: 2012

Publisher: Scholastic Non-Fiction

Collection: Horrible Histories

Rating: 5/5 stars

Through Terrible Tudors, I entered Terry Deary‘s world and, to this day, this book is still the one I enjoyed the most. However, I’m sure there are many Horrible Histories volumes that await to be read and reviewed and I bet those will be as fascinating as the one I’m going to talk about here.

The Terrible Tudor timeline stretches from the end of The War of the Roses to the last day Queen Elizabeth I’s reign. Besides the Tudor dynasty, you will read about life and death in Tudor times including awful doctors and remedies that didn’t work, school and rules, crime, thieves’ slang and punishments, “terrible Shakespeare” (this is how Terry Deary gratulates the English bard), theatre, the mystery of Christopher Marlowe‘s sudden disappearance, witches and superstitions, strange food and endless banquets, Sir Francis Drake and the Spanish Armada, life for women and so on.

Before revealing an interesting aspect I found in the chapter entitled Terrible Shakespeare, I cannot restrain myself from writing some peculiar facts about Queen Elizabeth I (or Gloriana, a term my headmaster taught me in high school). The English Sovereign was very ugly, had very bad teeth, a quick-temper and bathed only four times a year.  Are you surprised in a bad way? Oh, but her majesty was cleaner than King Louis XIV, who took only three baths per year.

Now let’s leave the filth behind – there’s a lot of that in Tudor England anyway – and return to Shakespeare. I won’t bore you with Shakespearean insults because you might already know some of them from the multitude of articles found on the internet about this subject, but I’m sure that you haven’t heard of Shakespeare’s curse. Yes, King Tut is not alone when it comes to curses. Some people speculate that plays unknown to us might be buried along with Shakespeare’s body, but nobody had the courage to open the tomb and put the curse to the test. Have I stirred your interest a little?  Here is the epitaph the bard wrote himself:

” (Loc.665)

In the end, Terry Deary asks the reader if one wants to live in Tudor times. Are we thankful that we live in a different and better era or do we agree with the history books that the Tudor period was the “Golden Age of Good Queen Bess and Jolly Old Henry VIII?” (Loc. 1540)

Review: Measly Middle Ages by Terry Deary

Title: Measly Middle Ages

Author: Terry Deary

Illustrator: Martin Brown

Genre: Nonfiction, History, Children’s Books, Humour

First Published in 1990

Year of Publication of this Edition: 2011

Publisher: Scholastic Non-Fiction

Collection: Horrible Histories

Rating: 5/5 stars

I guess you already know from my previous review that Terry Deary is one of my favourite authors because he knows how to retell history in a laid-back and funny way.  Now I’m going to talk about a historical period that began to interest me since I have learnt about Beowulf and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in my English Medieval Literature class. Though Romantic writers tried to reinvent and paint the Dark Ages in pinkish shades, it’s pretty hard for me to understand how come courtesy, beautiful love poems and songs could live side by side with religious dogmatism and lack of basic hygiene, two causes that triggered the plague and many other bizarre diseases.

According to Measly Middle Ages timeline, one of the most despotic, bloodthirsty and ignorant historical periods, from my point of view, stretches from post-Roman England to the time of Alfred the Great, the Norman Conquest, the Angevin rule, The War of the Roses, to Christopher Columbus‘ discovery.

In this book, you can find out how people lived in the Middle Ages, how women and children were treated, what rules they had to obey, what kind of clothes and accessories people wore and how monks lived. You will also read about the Norman Conquest and the feudal rule, the Angevin Dynasty, the Black Death and inefficient medieval remedies, odd facts about food and drinks and so on.

If you wonder which chapter I found the most interesting and intriguing, the answer is Rotten Religion. In the Middle Ages, people’s ignorance and naivety were exploited by monks and priests, who forged all sorts of holy relics and other items which apparently cured any illness. For example, “Saint Apollonia is the patron of toothache, thus she could cure your tortured tootsie-peg. (…) Hundred of monasteries had a tooth from her mouth. Big mouth? No, simply another miracle, the monks explained. Henry VI of England collected a ton of them” (Loc. 908-911).

If we think about Medieval schools, the monks and priests were the only teachers of the time. Life in the countryside, as well as in towns, was very hard, therefore, many small boys and girls were sent by their parents to join the church as monks and nuns. Here, the author reveals the letter of a boy, who has been studying in a monastery and the way he describes his daily routine: harsh discipline, an exhausting schedule not fit for a child no older than 8 or 9, firm teachers, scarce food, fasting, praying and a lot of Bible reading. I don’t know about you, but when I read this letter, it occurred to me that Medieval school is as bad as Victorian school.

Towards the end of the book, Terry Deary writes that in Tudor times life began to be slightly better and people believed that the crude and Measly Middle Ages seemed very far away; however, if we look through the newspapers of our day, we may notice that those horrible times have not ended completely just yet.


Review: Savage Stone Age by Terry Deary

Title: Savage Stone Age

Author: Terry Deary

Illustrator: Martin Brown

Genre: Non-Fiction, History, Children’s Books, Humour

First Published in 1999

Year of Publication of this Edition: 2008

Publisher: Scholastic Non-Fiction

Collection: Horrible Histories

Rating: 4/5 stars

Do you remember those days when you were in class and your history teacher overwhelmed you with more than a dozen crucial events and important dates? I guess everybody experienced that feeling of boredom at least once in their lifetime, along with the natural question: “Is history all that plain and difficult to like?

The answer is “no” because history – as well as any other school subject – has its dirty secrets and gruesome facts, which, unfortunately, are not taught because of their inappropriateness or doubtful existence. However, you can find a pleasant alternative to the multitude of documentaries and various articles you might find on the Internet; that alternative is British writer’s Terry Deary series of books Horrible Histories, a more terrible, measly, slimy, vile and funny approach to history, seasoned with jokes, irony and British humour.

The collection is made out of small books – almost 150 pages each – which usually give extraordinary and peculiar information about famous English monarchs and common people who lived in a certain time and space. Besides the history of England, which begins with Cut-Throat Celts and ends with The 20th Century, the author also published Savage Stone Age, Rotten Romans, Groovy Greeks, Awful Egyptians, Incredible Incas, Angry Aztecs, Horrible Histories Special: France, Horrible Histories Special: USA, Pirates and so on.

A few years ago I accidentally discovered the BBC adaptation of Terry Deary’s books entitled also Horrible Histories on Youtube, but only in late 2013, it occurred to me that I should read one of his books. At first, I didn’t know what to expect, but after reading three of his books, I must confess that Terry Deary became one of my favourite writers. Why? Because of the things mentioned above and many more.

The first book I’m going to talk about is Savage Stone Age and is actually the third one I’ve read, but its special subject forces me to put it in the top of the list. Throughout this book you will read about the timeline of human evolution and the three prehistoric periods of mankind (in a brief introductory chapter), how Stone Agers lived, the animals they hunted till becoming extinct. We will also learn more about the food they ate, how they cooked it, about their weird beliefs and gruesome burials, about brainy archaeologists, treasure hunters, accidental discoveries, stone circles legends and mysteries (including many fascinating facts about Stonehenge) and many other curious facts which won’t let you put the book or reading device down.

I don’t want to spoil your read, in case you plan to go through this book, but I will give you a tiny hint. For example, in the chapter Rotten Rituals, among many bizarre and pretty horrible funeral rituals, you will find out that there are many stone circles spread across Britain and their presence brings luck and good energies. Unfortunately, nobody knows exactly what they were made for. Tradition says that if a girl wanted to know who will be her future husband, she had to travel to Arthur’s Stone (at Gower near Swansea, Wales), “wait until midnight when the moon is full and put cakes, milk and honey on the ancient stone. Crawl around the stone on your hands and knees and if the vision of your lover appears, then you will marry him. If not, then he’s probably too busy watching telly.” (Loc. 969-970)

There are also some little tests, through which Terry Deary challenges you to remember what you have learnt about the Stone Age Period. But don’t worry if you get the answers wrong, because you are doing it just for fun. For instance, there’s a test where the author asks you a few questions about the way Stone Agers lived and you have to choose the correct answer. If you get all the answers right, then you are a modern human being. If you get fewer answers right, depending on the number of wrong answers, you are a Neanderthal, chimpanzee or less than that.

Before ending this review, I must tell you that, although Savage Stone Age is a book for children, it helped me understand better my anthropology class and those history lessons from my childhood. Through the jokes and anecdotes inserted between the lines, the author reminds us that history can be child’s play and its main role is to captivate the audience because history also means story.