When Animals Attack: The 70 Best Horror Movies with Killer Animals – Vanessa Morgan (editor)

Movies where animals attack are some of my favourites, particularly when they’re so bad they’re hilarious. This book takes on the good, the bad and the how did this even get made?!

The killers in these movies include ants, sharks, rats, snakes, dogs and spiders. Each of the seventy essays focuses on one movie. The essays varied in the level of detail about the movie but be aware that some include major spoilers.

I was surprised to discover I’d only seen twelve of the movies discussed:

My favourite, Mega Piranha, didn’t find its way into the book. It’s ridiculous, it’s made by The Asylum and its stars include Greg Brady and Tiffany (who sings one of the songs on the soundtrack).

The bicycle kick scene is priceless:

Here’s the trailer:

Oh, and it has an IMDb score of 2.4. Obsessed yet?

Anyway, back to the book. I enjoyed seeing that some of my favourites were included and I now have a huge list of movies to binge.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Moonlight Creek Publishing for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The definitive horror movie guide for fans of killer animals and “revenge of nature” films.

When Animals Attack: The 70 Best Horror Movies with Killer Animals provides a fascinating and entertaining insight into the cinematographic world of animals on the rampage. From well-known predators such as sharks and lions to unusual killing machines like turkeys, elephants, frogs, cats, and rabbits, there is no shortage of the species on display in this book.

Leading horror writers and filmmakers present their favourite “animals attack” films through in-depth essays. Some of the films are touching, some are repulsive, and some are just plain silly. Not all of these horror movies line up with the critical consensus, yet they have one thing in common: they have made the heart of the writer beat faster with excitement.

The Witch Haven – Sasha Peyton Smith

Spoilers Ahead! (marked in purple)

“Something bad is coming”

Frances Hallowell is mourning the recent death of her brother. Her life gets a lot more complicated when her super slimy boss attacks her after hours and she sorta kinda accidentally kills him. Oops!

When it looks certain that Frances is going to be convicted as a murderer, salvation comes to her by way of an ambulance. She’s told she’s very unwell and is promptly taken to Haxahaven Sanitarium to be ‘treated’. Only Haxahaven isn’t what it’s advertised to be. It’s actually a school for witches…

The premise of this book hooked me: secret witchy school, murder mystery, underdog battling the Big Bad. The reality of the book surprised me, and I’m still conflicted.

I was entirely engaged until I learned that the witchcraft that was being taught at Haxahaven was limited to producing good little wives and domestic help. I switched off a little at that point and was even able to put the book aside for a few weeks without any trouble.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to finish reading but figured I’d give it another try. I found it easy to get back into. I hadn’t forgotten who the characters were or what was happening for each of them when I pressed pause. It didn’t take me long to get into the rest of the story, the parts that didn’t involve magical bread-kneading.

While I wasn’t the hugest fan of Frances, I absolutely adored Maxine and Lena. I wanted to get to know Oliver better.

I think perhaps this is how we survive in the world. Passing little bits of our magic back and forth to each other when the world takes it from us. It’s survival. It’s love. It’s family.

Content warnings include attempted sexual assault including suffocation, domestic abuse, mental health and a character who was removed from her home and taken to a residential school. Readers with emetophobia may have trouble with some scenes.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

In 1911 New York City, seventeen year old Frances Hallowell spends her days as a seamstress, mourning the mysterious death of her brother months prior. Everything changes when she’s attacked and a man ends up dead at her feet – her scissors in his neck, and she can’t explain how they got there.

Before she can be condemned as a murderess, two cape-wearing nurses arrive to inform her she is deathly ill and ordered to report to Haxahaven Sanitarium. But Frances finds Haxahaven isn’t a sanitarium at all: it’s a school for witches. Within Haxahaven’s glittering walls, Frances finds the sisterhood she craves, but the headmistress warns Frances that magic is dangerous. Frances has no interest in the small, safe magic of her school, and is instead enchanted by Finn, a boy with magic himself who appears in her dreams and tells her he can teach her all she’s been craving to learn, lessons that may bring her closer to discovering what truly happened to her brother.

Frances’s newfound power attracts the attention of the leader of an ancient order who yearns for magical control of Manhattan. And who will stop at nothing to have Frances by his side. Frances must ultimately choose what matters more, justice for her murdered brother and her growing feelings for Finn, or the safety of her city and fellow witches. What price would she pay for power, and what if the truth is more terrible than she ever imagined?

The Twig Man – Sana Rasoul

Spoilers Ahead! (marked in purple)

Ari’s parents think Lana ran away but Ari knows better: the Twig Man took her.

Legend says if you wander too far into the woods, he’ll snatch you with his roots and drag you into his lair.

Lana has been missing for a year but Ari hasn’t given up hope. Accompanied by Timmy, a new friend who also believes in the Twig Man, Ari braves the woods to save his sister.

With plenty of screaming and a creepy location, not to mention the potentially true urban legend, this book would have scared me as a kid. It wouldn’t have helped that pretty much everywhere Ari turns, he’s being watched by animals with white eyes.

I figured out Timmy’s story before it was explained but this would have blindsided me had I read this as a kid.

I absolutely loved that there was a glossary of Kurdish words after the story.

I was left with some unanswered questions, mostly relating to the people I met near the end of the book. Did the people who were missing age while they were with the Twig Man? How are they going to explain where they’ve been to the police? Given the length of time some of them have been missing, will their parents even still be alive? How are they going to adapt to a world that has changed so much in their absence?

“Beware the Twig Man, the Twig Man’s hex. Beware the Twig Man, or you’ll be NEXT!”

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Hashtag Press for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Beware the Twig Man, the Twig Man’s hex. Beware the Twig Man, or you’ll be NEXT!   

It’s been a year since nearly-twelve-year-old Ari’s older sister, Lana, ran away.

Except Ari knows what really happened.

She was taken by the Twig Man, the creepy monster that’s haunted the woods for one hundred years. 

No one else will listen, so it’s down to Ari to save his sister.

But he had better hurry, as Ari finds himself next on the Twig Man’s list…

Cackle – Rachel Harrison

WELCOME TO ROWAN, AMERICA’S BEST-KEPT SECRET.

Annie is newly thirty and newly single when she moves to Rowan. Recently dumped by her long term boyfriend/best friend, Annie is on her own for the first time and she’s not a fan. When she’s not teaching “hormone-addled, angst-driven evil meat sticks”, she’s hitting the bottle.

It isn’t long before Annie meets Sophie, who’s beautiful and self-assured. The people of Rowan behave differently when Sophie is around, though. It’s almost as if they’re scared of her.

“Want me to curse them for you?”

“Sure,” I say.

“Done.”

Annie loves the attention and care that Sophie lavishes on her but it made me feel claustrophobic. The relationships in this book (Annie and Sam, Annie and Sophie) are all kinds of messed up. It’s no coincidence that the first movie Sophie watches with Annie is Gaslight.

I wanted Sophie’s wardrobe and wouldn’t have said no to her home cooking but wasn’t a fan of her. To be fair, she does want Bruce to win in Jaws so she can’t be all bad, but I don’t know if I can trust someone who hates unicorns. I’m all for having the confidence to be who you truly are but if claiming your power results in an entire township being terrified of you, then that cheapens it for me.

My favourite character, Ralph, had no lines but he made up for it in personality. I’m a sucker for spiders who can pull off wearing a top hat, especially when they also have a great smile.

Overall, this was a lighter read than I was expecting but that’s not to say there weren’t some memorable lines:

My insecurity returns like a villain in a sequel. The same but worse.

I embrace the next morning with all the enthusiasm of a goat entering Jurassic Park.

Readers with emetophobia may have trouble with some scenes.

NOW LEAVING ROWAN. KEEP OUR SECRET.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Titan Books for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

All her life, Annie has played it nice and safe. After being unceremoniously dumped by her long-time boyfriend, Annie seeks a fresh start. She accepts a teaching job that moves her from Manhattan to a small village upstate. Her new home is picturesque and perfect. The people are all friendly and warm. Her new apartment is lovely too, minus the oddly persistent spider infestation.

Then Annie meets Sophie. Beautiful, charming, magnetic Sophie, who takes a special interest in Annie, who wants to be her friend. More importantly, she wants Annie to stop apologising and start living for herself. That’s how Sophie lives. Annie can’t help but gravitate toward the self-possessed Sophie, wanting to spend more and more time with her, despite the fact that the rest of the town seems… a little afraid of her. And, okay. Sophie’s appearance is uncanny and ageless, her mansion in the middle of the woods feels a little unearthly, and she does seem to wield a certain power… but she couldn’t be… could she?

Death for Dinner Cookbook – Zach Neil

I loved Zach’s The Nightmare Before Dinner so was keen to see what yummy horrors he’d be serving up here. There are sixty plant-based recipes inspired by movies and TV shows on the menu, with a selection of Sickening Starters & Sides, Monstrous Mains, Depraved Desserts, Cursed Cocktails and Atrocious Accompaniments.

It wasn’t always immediately clear to me what the connection was between the recipe and its inspiration. Having said that, there were others that were immediately apparent and delightfully appropriate, like The Exorcist inspired Regan’s Pea Soup Vomit (With Bits).

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One of the things I love about cookbooks is being able to drool over photos of the finished products. The presentation of the food in this book was one of the drawcards for me.

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Some recipes, like The Crow inspired Devil’s Night Cauliflower Wings, featured a movie poster instead of the food. Some recipes had no accompanying photos at all.

I’m most interested in spectacularly failing to replicate the Trick ‘r Treat inspired All Hallows’ Eve Lasagna and Dexter inspired Blood (Orange) Cheesecake Trifle. Both of these came with photos so I’ll get to compare my efforts with what the food was actually supposed to look like.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Rock Point, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

From the mad mind of acclaimed chef, Zach Neil comes this killer plant-based cookbook inspired by your favourite horror movies and TV shows. The follow-up to his best-selling cookbook, The Nightmare Before Dinner, the Death for Dinner Cookbook delivers gruesome goodness in 60 stick-to-your-guts comfort-food recipes, from startling starters and monstrous mains to depraved desserts and cursed cocktails, including:

  • Crystal Lake BBQ Sliders, inspired by Friday the 13th – The only thing better than warm sunshine, campfires, and working up an appetite after escaping the clutches of Jason Vorhees are these pulled mushroom sliders.
  • Children of the Hominy, inspired by Children of the Corn – An ancient recipe from Gatlin, Nebraska, this pozole will make anyone rise up from the stalks. 
  • The Hills Have Fries, inspired by The Hills Have Eyes – This hill of hand-cut french fries smothered in a béchamel and chilli sauce and topped with fresh scallions, red onion, fakon, cilantro and lime sour cream will have everyone watching you.
  • Blood Orange Cheesecake Trifle, inspired by Dexter – Complete with blood orange, vegan cream cheese, and hints of lemon, this dessert is the right amount of sweet and airy – no gloves or plastic wrap are required to make. 
  • Never Sleep Again, inspired by Nightmare on Elm Street – Stay awake (and alive!) with this alternative take on an old-fashioned cocktail made with a shot of espresso.

Though the recipes may look terrifying, they are easy to make and will impress even the most stubborn carnivores. So, get ready to throw the ultimate Halloween party or some epic movie nights. Let’s just hope Freddy, Michael, and Jason stay on the screen and off the guest list. [cue the beet-juice splatter!]

Hot Dog! #12: Lolly Time! – Anh Do

Illustrations – Dan McGuiness

It’s almost Halloween and Hotdog, Kev and Lizzie are busy working on their costumes. Meanwhile, the new lolly shop is hosting a competition so when they’re not trying to perfect their sewing skills, the friends are cooking up a storm.

While I loved the Halloween costumes the friends ended up wearing, I haven’t found the last couple of books in this series as funny as I did the earlier ones.

It was good to finally meet some of Lizzie’s family and kids should enjoy trying to solve the spooky mystery.

I always look forward to Dan McGuiness’ illustrations and they’re as fun as ever. 

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Humpty Dumpty Kev, Kev on roller skates and Kev essentially having any expression at all were the standouts for me.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The lolly shop’s having a contest to see who can come up with the best new candy! Meanwhile, it’s Halloween and there’s a ghost on the loose!

Can Hot Dog and his friends create a winning treat and capture the spooky stranger?! It would be sweeeeeet!

Friday the 13th #1: Church of the Divine Psychopath – Scott Phillips

Welcome to Camp Crystal Lake: Blasphemy Edition 

Father Eric Long has had a revelation. The time has come for sinners to be judged by the Heavenly Vessel, A.K.A., Jason Voorhees. 

“Big guy. Hockey mask. Has issues?” 

The one and the same. 

The Ministry of the Heavenly Vessel are going on a road trip because it turns out that Father Long isn’t alone in his delusion. Like all good cult leaders, Long has managed to convince his entire flock to sell all of their worldly possessions and hand the proceeds to him. They’ve secured the lease to Camp Crystal Lake and the entire congregation are moving in. 

It’s not like the Father’s going to let a little thing like the fact that Jason is currently fish food prevent him from carrying out his mission. After retrieving a soggy Jason from the depths of Crystal Lake and nailing him to a cross (twice), freaky Father sets out to resurrect him. Jason’s going to church! What could go wrong?! 

Meanwhile, a strike team from the Agency, a covert branch of the government, are also making their way to Crystal Lake. Because what this situation desperately needs is more firepower. Besides the arsenal that the churchies apparently brought with them, that is. 

“I saw this in a horror movie once” 

A church, a strike team and Jason Voorhees converging on Camp Crystal Lake may sound like the beginning of a really bad joke but what it actually is is a recipe for a really big body count. I’m guessing that this “God-sanctioned Jason Voorhees bloodbath” takes place on Friday the 13th but no one ever showed me a calendar.

So, who are the victims this time around? This “salad bar of murderous possibilities” consists mostly of the strike team and church members. 

“Straight to hell for you.” 

It’s hard to figure out the exact body count but we’re talking more than fifty.

The people start dying in the prologue but these kills happen before the events of this book so I’m not counting those.

There’s a strike team mission prior to Mission Hockey Mask where a couple of strike team members stop breathing and all but two of the baddies have the kind of bad day that prevents you from having any other kind of day ever, but we don’t know how many there were to start off with.

The strike team members, some of who appear to be most content when they’re busy fighting amongst themselves, are lining up to die.

* Jeff Townsend – the six foot six leader of this suicide mission. He’s probably going to go down with the metaphorical ship.
* Walter Hobb – he’s five foot six, has soap opera looks and he’s recently suffered a serious case of demotion. He can’t see so well out of one of his eyes as a result of the mission that put him in the bad books but he’s a main character so he might just get to go home to his wife, Lauren. Lauren is pretty peeved that Hobb signed up for Operation Suicide By Jason. She runs a used bookstore, though, so she’s definitely going to survive. Not even Jason is going to lay a machete on someone who takes such good care of books.
* Samantha Noon – she’s 20 and a total badass. But… she has sex during the book and anyone who ever took Horror 101 knows that’s a death sentence.
* Chris Seaver – Townsend’s second in command for this mission. He also has sex, with Noon. Nice knowing you, Chris.
* Benjamin Hurley – he’s given a first name but I don’t remember hearing anything that could be accused of being a backstory. That doesn’t bode well for him.
* Bruno Ortega – he’s a pervert. Enough said.
* Acheson – he’s relaxed enough to leave his gun outside of reaching distance while he wanders around in the lake. Seriously, Acheson?
* Moseley – he’s a medic so he’s got to survive long enough to try to put intestines back inside bodies, right?
* Lovinger – this guy loves Burt Reynolds movies. Make of that what you will.
* Stilton, Blair, Leonard, Sisson, Garb, Connolly, Howard, Chaffin, Marr – the author didn’t care enough about these dead men walking to give them first names.
* Hurley, Miller, Hall – these men don’t get names until their death scenes. This may be a clue.

Then there are the true believers who, after the initial slaughter, get together for a cuppa. As you do. 

“Trouble has found its way to our little ministry.” 

* Father Eric Long – he’s the reason we’re in this mess to begin with. The way he spiritually guides three widows is beyond creepy.
* Kelly Mills – although she’s only 26, Kelly has a backstory. She doesn’t believe in God but she does believe in Long. Well, she wants to get in his pants, anyway. 
* Curtis Rickles – this former marine is the most detestable waste of oxygen you’ll find in this book. When he’s not shooting people, he’s busy sexually assaulting a minor. He needs to die a really drawn out, creative death.
* Don James – one of the Father’s inner circle, Don’s a biker with tattoos he probably got in jail.
* Meredith Host – 17 year old Meredith is at Crystal Lake with her parents, who are in their 60’s. Kelly is her best (only?) friend. That’s not to say this virgin doesn’t have lust in her heart.
* Roger (or Robert) – okay, so we don’t even know for sure what this man’s name is. That’s not a good sign.
* Denice Keenan, Jennifer Crenshaw, Lorelei Picardi, Charlotte Rutherford – these women share a cabin with Kelly, one of our main characters. These women may need to be sacrificed for the greater good if Jason wanders in. Especially Denice. She chose the bottom bunk so she’s more accessible.
* Travis Hornby, John Sullivan, Mark Brody, Susan Perkins, Susanna Brookwalter – yeah, I don’t know enough about these people to ensure their survival.
* Patricia Krenkle and Manny Krenkle, Mr and Mrs Host – do we know what Jason’s views are on marriage?
* Stan – I feel like there was a Stan but now I’m not so sure. 
* Ronald Shearing, Joseph Bookwalter – we know they existed only because we know they died.

Eleanor, Steve and Frenchie never leave Lefty’s so unless Jason’s feeling a bit parched, they’re probably okay. Sonia, the waitress, will probably make it as well. 

There’s an unnamed farmer driving a chicken truck in the general vicinity but he’s smart enough to keep driving so I’m fairly certain he’s going to keep breathing until at least the next time Friday the 13th rolls around.

This book reconfirms why this place is known as Camp Blood. The insides are now your outsides action is fairly consistent, once you get through the extensive backstories of a couple of contenders.

After the prologue, Jason doesn’t even get to kill anyone until page 172. His first kill is probably his best, although the next three are pretty decent as well. I came for machete slicing and dicing and Jason squishing heads like watermelons. Jason got a bit lazy in this book, primarily introducing people to his machete. Some kills only warranted a sentence and others happened off the page.

Rivalling Jason’s machete in the body count are guns. There are also five funerals we need to attend for people whose COD will need to be determined by a coroner because, while I’m guessing they were shot or met explodey ends as a result of a grenade, I don’t know for sure.

The rules that govern who should die in Jason’s world were pretty much thrown out the window in this book. The pure and hell bound were both fair game.

The person I most wanted to die did but their manner of death didn’t live up to my hopes. It needed to be less generic and much more painful and dramatic.

I wondered how much gunfire Jason could take. Hundreds of bullets didn’t slow him down at all. Speaking of not slowing down, honouring his ability to walk faster than his victims can run, Jason somehow managed to make a return trip to somewhere that takes half an hour to drive to in record time.

Handy hint: When the leader of your church starts citing Waco to guide you through current events, you may be in a cult.

Best description

Blood shot skywards like a gory lawn sprinkler. 

Content warnings include sexual assault. Readers with emetophobia may have trouble with a couple of scenes.

Next Friday the 13th readHell Lake, where an executed serial killer meets Jason in hell.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The first in a brand new series of Friday the 13th shockers! Jason Voorhees is reanimated and worshipped by a bizarre religious cult. When a SWAT team is called in, it’s time for Jason to go about his bloody work and wages a one-man war against both sides.

Heart Takes the Stage – Steenz

I’d never heard of the Heart of the City comics before so this collection was my introduction to Heart Lamarr and her friends. 

I liked Kat. 

“Friendship is nothing if you don’t stand up for each other.” 

I also liked nerds Charlotte and Dean. Their problems are understandable, like worrying that the other is nerdier. And Charlotte’s dog is called Ripley, so you have to love her for that.

The thing is, though, I didn’t like Heart. 

“Sorry to interrupt this weird-off, but let’s get to how your skill can help me.” 

In this collection, Heart really wants to get her ears pierced. She also wants a part in the school play.

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She also attends a sleepover, babysits and hosts a Halloween party. I found Heart most relatable when she was binge watching TV.

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I loved the fortune telling bread and I may need to join the Atlantic Paranormal Society.

I would probably want to hang out with Heart’s friends again but I’m not especially keen on crossing paths with her. 

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for the opportunity to read this collection. 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

This first book collection of Heart of the City comics by the strip’s new creator, Steenz, is packed with outstanding art, a diverse cast of characters, and engaging, positive storylines about friendship, pop culture, ghost stories, and a wide range of real-world issues. 

Heart Lamarr is a girl with big dreams who lives in Philadelphia with her single mum. She has her sights set on a life of theatre, but she runs into plenty of drama off-stage, too. Luckily, her best friends Dean, Kat, and Charlotte form a stellar supporting cast to help Heart navigate the challenging world of school plays, cliques, rumours, and everything else middle school throws at them.

Enough – Harriet Johnson

In her work as a barrister, Harriet Johnson has seen how the criminal justice system can work and also how it can fail women. In this book, Harriet outlines many of the ways violence is perpetrated against women, how the justice system responds to it and how it can be more adequately addressed as well as prevented.

An overview of the law, statistics and case studies are presented about various ways that women experience violence: homicide, sexual violence, domestic abuse, female genital mutilation, stalking, street harassment and online harassment. 

The author clearly points out that even though a dark picture can already be painted using the statistics that are available, there are entire groups of women whose experience is not even captured in them.

If you’re not from the UK, you’ll find that the definitions of offences, the laws that relate to them and the maximum applicable if someone is convicted won’t line up with the laws of your country. The statistics are also UK specific, although most didn’t seem dissimilar to what I know of stats from other countries.

None of the suggested strategies for ending violence against women surprised me. They focus on prevention, as well as making improvements to the systems that are currently in place. It’s about having enough resources and training. It’s taking a long, hard look at the way police and the courts respond to violence. It’s including marginalised women in the statistics because if we don’t have a clear picture of what’s happening, then how can we ever expect things to change.

Favourite quote: “the culture you get is the behaviour you tolerate.”

Content warnings include mention of ableism, death by suicide, domestic abuse, female genital mutilation, homophobia, mental health, misogyny, racism, self harm and sexual assault.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and William Collins, an imprint of HarperCollins, for the opportunity to read this book. 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

This is a book that calls time on the endless tide of violence against women and the failures of our criminal justice system to respond.

From barrister Harriet Johnson, Enough lays bare the appalling status quo of abuse against women in our society, offering an irrefutable case for why change is needed in policing and justice. Most vitally, it also gives a manifesto for how to get there.

With expertise, clear-sightedness and appropriate fury, this book helps us see where women are suffering – from homicide to domestic abuse to street harassment. It exposes the ways the criminal justice system lets women down – from officers failing to properly investigate to a lack of consequences when police behaviour is unacceptable, to backlogged courts and the realities of convincing a jury.

Addressing misogyny is to everyone’s benefit and the answers aren’t simple. Enough is the call to arms we can – and must – all get behind.

A Dark History of Sugar – Neil Buttery

There’s nothing sweet about the history of sugar. Having already read A Dark History of Chocolate, I had some idea of what to expect. 

Even so, it was horrifying reading chapter after chapter about slavery. Centuries worth of humans enslaving other humans to produce something that was once reserved for royalty but we all now have a taste for. Not content with the human cost of producing sugar, we’ve also done irreparable damage to the environment. 

Interestingly, it turns out a spoonful of sugar really does help the medicine go down.

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Besides coating medicines in sugar to make them more palatable, it has also been used to ‘treat’ a number of conditions. One of my personal favourites was a remedy to treat conjunctivitis, “made up of powdered sugar, pearls and gold leaf that was blown directly into the eye.” It’s also been prescribed “to treat diseases of the loins, urinary tract, eyes and chest as well as headaches and inflammation.”

I learned how food manufacturers massage portion sizes so it appears their products contain less sugar than they really do and how they try to hide sugar in plain sight by calling it any number of things on the packaging. 

By 2018 there were at least fifty-six names in use for sugar in ingredients lists. 

This book, exploring both the production and consumption of sugar, was very well researched. It provides a detailed history but, for the most part, it’s just so depressing. 

The World Wildlife Fund reckons that sugar is ‘responsible for more biodiversity loss than any other crop.’ 

This is not an easy read but it is an eye opening one.

Content warnings include death by suicide, miscarriage, racism, sexual assault, slavery and torture. Images that accompany the text include those that depict slaves being abused and killed and a close up photo of an ulcerated foot.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Pen & Sword History, an imprint of Pen & Sword Books, for granting my wish to read this book. 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A Dark History of Sugar delves into our evolutionary history to explain why sugar is so loved, yet is the root cause of so many bad things.

Europe’s colonial past and Britain’s Empire were founded and fuelled on sugar, as was the United States, the greatest superpower on the planet – and they all relied upon slave labour to catalyse it.

A Dark History of Sugar focuses upon the role of the slave trade in sugar production and looks beyond it to how the exploitation of the workers didn’t end with emancipation. It reveals the sickly truth behind the detrimental impact of sugar’s meteoric popularity on the environment and our health. Advertising companies peddle their sugar-laden wares to children with fun cartoon characters, but the reality is not so sweet.

A Dark History of Sugar delves into our long relationship with this sweetest and most ancient of commodities. The book examines the impact of the sugar trade on the economies of Britain and the rest of the world, as well as its influence on health and cultural and social trends over the centuries.

Renowned food historian Neil Buttery takes a look at some of the lesser-known elements of the history of sugar, delving into the murky and mysterious aspects of its phenomenal rise from the first cultivation of the sugar cane plant in Papua New Guinean in 8,000 BCE to becoming an integral part of the cultural fabric of life in Britain and the rest of the West – at whatever cost. The dark history of sugar is one of exploitation: of slaves and workers, of the environment and of the consumer. Wars have been fought over it and it is responsible for what is potentially to be the planet’s greatest health crisis.

And yet we cannot get enough of it, for sugar and sweetness has cast its spell over us all; it is comfort and we reminisce fondly about the sweets, cakes, puddings and fizzy drinks of our childhoods with dewy-eyed nostalgia. To be sweet means to be good, to be innocent; in this book Neil Buttery argues that sugar is nothing of the sort. Indeed, it is guilty of some of the worst crimes against humanity and the planet.