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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-05-21 07:33
Dynasty by Tom Holland
Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar by Tom Holland (2015-09-03) - Tom Holland;

TITLE:  Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar

 

AUTHOR:  Tom Holland

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2015

 

FORMAT:  Paperback

 

ISBN-13:  978-0-349-12383-7

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Dynasty is the early history of the Julio-Claudian line of the Roman emperors retold as a story.  This book starts off where Rubicon ended.  This is a narrative history that seeks to entertain the reader and provide a story of what happened.  For me, it did not succeed with either endeavour.  I don’t know much more about the “what happened” than I had before reading this book (i.e. a succession of Roman Emperors that waged war on whom ever stuck their fancy and had a fancy for despotism and murdering anyone they felt like).  Nor was I entertained – I was bored and finished reading the book just to get it off my bedside table.

 

Holland does not attempt to put forth new scholarly conclusions, nor does he offer much analyses of complex events.  This narrative relies almost exclusively on textual evidence in Roman literature and history, with casually inserted quotes from primary textual sources without bothering to explain their source, context or (on occasion) their relevance. 

 

The potential storyline is strong, but Holland’s delivery manages to be weak.  The writing is tedious, ponderous, overly-flowery with a disjointed and distant narrative that manages to be more selective gossip and sensationalism than actual history.  It doesn’t help that in a 500+ page book there are only 7 incredibly long-winded chapters, which all have mafia related headings.   The author spends a ridiculous amount of ink on each emperor’s sexual proclivities and random insertions of far too much graphic sexual detail of what the author professes to be the values of the rest of the Roman citizens at the time.  He rather gleefully “spices” up the narrative of these salacious details with foul and vulgar language (apparently big boys like their potty humour too), which jarred with the tone of the rest of the text.  Apparently, Holland is under the impression that popular history books need to be excessively graphic, crude and vulgar to be interesting to readers.

 

The book is also rather limited in scope, dealing only with the Julio-Claudians and their enemies (i.e. upper-class associates and relatives), thus excluding almost entirely the everyday lives of ordinary Romans, any changes in the Roman economy, trade, and climate, and also excludes anything related to material culture unless it involves monuments relevant to the Julio-Claudians.

 

This book couldn’t decide whether it was supposed to be a popular history book (with footnotes and bibliography) or a work of historical fiction.  Despite the inclusion of a timeline, maps and family trees, this book came across as a messy hodgepodge of people with vaguely similar names (apparently ancient Romans lacked imagination when naming their children!), who are in some way related to each other, doing various despicable deeds to each other.  Talk about a dysfunctional, psychopathic family!

 

 

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review 2018-04-16 03:08
Sweet read, love grows from awkwardness and necessity.
Beneath Montana's Sky: A Montana Sky Novella (The Montana Sky Series) - Debra Holland

This was a sweet story. John was such a caring man though not prepared for Boston society. Pamela had such self-doubt that she could not believe John would choose her. The narrator did a good job of voicing the characters, it was easy to keep up. Description of John's ranch in Montana was beautifully done. The story ended a bit abrupt for me as I felt we had not spent enough time in Montana. I hope the next book finishes their story. I look forward to reading more in this series.

I received this audiobook as a gift, and this is my unsolicited review.

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review 2018-03-26 09:13
Millenium by Tom Holland
Millennium: The End of the World and the Forging of Christendom - Tom Holland

TITLE:  Millennium:  The End of the World and the Forging of Christendom

 

AUTHOR:  Tom Holland

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2009

 

FORMAT:  Paperback

 

ISBN-13:  978-0349119724

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From the blurb:

Of all the civilisations existing in the year 1000, that of Western Europe seemed the unlikeliest candidate for future greatness. Compared to the glittering empires of Byzantium or Islam, the splintered kingdoms on the edge of the Atlantic appeared impoverished, fearful and backward. But the anarchy of these years proved to be, not the portents of the end of the world, as many Christians had dreaded, but rather the birthpangs of a radically new order. MILLENNIUM is a stunning panoramic account of the two centuries on either side of the apocalyptic year 1000. This was the age of Canute, William the Conqueror and Pope Gregory VII, of Vikings, monks and serfs, of the earliest castles and the invention of knighthood, and of the primal conflict between church and state. The story of how the distinctive culture of Europe - restless, creative and dynamic - was forged from out of the convulsions of these extraordinary times is as fascinating and as momentous as any in history.

 

This book takes a look at European History from about 800 - 1200AD.  The subject is interesting, the writing style somewhat flowery, but personable and understandable.  This book makes a good introductory text to the time period, though obviously not a complete one, nor does it analyse everything that was going on during this time period.  The book includes the useful addition of maps and a timeline.

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review 2018-02-16 00:00
Private Hearts
Private Hearts - Grant C. Holland Private Hearts - Grant C. Holland This is a sweet friends to lovers story. Although heavy topics like death, family secrets, and AIDS are added to the plot, there is very little angst. What angst is there seems added just for a little conflict. You would expect some adjustment for a couple who go from best friends for twenty years to lovers but we are given a little speed bumb in one evening that is quickly resolved after some sleep. Not much happens and the sex scenes were just ok. I felt neither heat nor actual attachment to the characters and what happens to them. This had all the elements that just didn't come together for me.
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review 2018-02-12 13:33
If you enjoy well-researched international thrillers and love team-spirit, don’t miss this one.
The Violin Man's Legacy - Seumas Gallacher

I had read Gallacher’s Self-Publishing Steps to Successful Sales (you can check my review here) a while back and had several of his books waiting to be read but had not managed yet. But when his first novel, The Violin Man’s Legacy became available in audiobook format, I knew I had no excuse.

Although I tend to use the text-to-speech facility on my e-reader, I haven’t listened to many audiobooks (mostly my own) so I was intrigued by the experience. I found the narrator, C.C. Hogan, engaging, able to hold my attention, and very good at keeping the characters separate (and there are quite a few!) and individual. He is also very good at accents and managed the international locations and names without faltering. Unfortunately, my Kindle is quite old by now and could not accommodate the Whispersync option, that would have made it easier to check some things (like names and details), as I also had a copy of the Kindle version of the book.

I’m not a huge reader of spy novels, and although this book is classified within the crime and suspense thriller category, this international action-thriller reminded me in style of many spy/international conspiracy novel, although with a more European feel, and less frantic in pace than many American spy thrillers. There is plenty of action, and even some sex (and yes, the main character is incredibly skilled, can fight like the best of them, and outwit his opponents, although the brains behind the operation is his boss), but there are also slower moments when we learn the back story, not only of the main characters, like Jack and his teammates, but also of some of the people they collaborate with, and even some of their enemies. This allows us to get to know more about the players and to understand how they got to where they are. (The story behind the title and the way it relates to Jack’s past is particularly touching).

The book is narrated in the third person, from a variety of points of view. We mostly follow Jack Calder (as it should be, as this is his series), but we also are party to the thoughts of many other characters, although there is no confusing head-hopping, and even in the narrated version, it is clear which point of view we are being privy to at any given moment. This helps create a more complex story, with layers of information and to get a better grasp of what the different players have at stake. There are those who are only interested in money, others involved in power games and politics, and others for whom reputation and loyalty are the main objects.

The story takes us from London to Amsterdam, Hong-Kong, and South America, and the author is meticulous and well-informed, providing credible settings and a detailed exposition of the procedures and operations that brings to mind the best police procedural novels. But although we follow each detail of the investigations and the operations, there are always surprises to keep us on our toes.

Jack Calder, the central character, is a breath of fresh air in a genre where heroes are almost superhuman and can fight entire wars single-handedly. Although Jack, an ex-SAS captain, is indeed great at his job, he is traumatised by a family tragedy; he is self-deprecating and knows when to give credit where credit is due. He can follow orders and acknowledges his bosses’ superior planning skills. He is also a friend of his friends, and a loyal team-player and the novel highlights how important good relationships and contacts are in the world of international security firms and businesses.

I loved the fact that the characters talk like real people talk (yes, they use clichés sometimes, make bad jokes, and sometimes are lost for words), and, although there is violence and terrible things happen (justice and law are not always on the same side of the divide), there are also very funny moments.

The writing style is fluid and the pace ebbs and flows, with moments that are fast-paced and others that allow us to catch a breath and learn more about the ins and outs of the businesses and the characters involved. Readers need to remain alert, as there are many characters, locations, and plot threads, and, it is important to pay attention to the details.

I recommend this book to those who love spy and international intrigue thrillers, especially to readers who like complex situations and stories with plenty of twists and turns, but who don’t mind stopping to take a breath every so often. A great first book in the series and many great characters I hope to meet again.

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