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review 2018-05-09 16:06
The Throne of Caesar (Roma Sub Rosa #13) - Steven Saylor
The Throne of Caesar: A Mystery of Ancient Rome - Steven Saylor

I am electing not to mark spoilers in this review. I feel the events of the novel are prominent historical events that the majority of readers should be familiar with. 

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As excited for this book as I was, I was also hesitant to read it. As I understand things, this is the final book in the Gordianus the Finder series (Roma Sub Rosa). I'm just not quite ready to give Gordianus up despite the fact that he seems to have acquired a few more years than most Romans of the age. The author has been releasing prequel novels. However, none of those novels have really been any good. 

 

If you are coming into this book expecting the traditional Gordianus mystery, you are going to potentially be disappointed. There is a mystery in this novel but it doesn't make an appearance until about the last 100-75 pages. The novel revolves around Caesar and his death. There's no mystery there. Everyone knows how Caesar dies. Everyone knows who killed Caesar. Saylor still managed to make me care and maybe even convince me that just maybe this was an alternate history. Maybe Caesar didn't really die. 

 

It is difficult to make the events of the Ides of March take a backseat. Saylor manages to put Caesar's assassination in the way back. Cinna takes a front seat in this story. Cinna's work and his death are the star of this show. If you aren't sure who Cinna (the poet) is and where he stands in Roman history, I would strongly recommend doing a little bit of background research before starting this book. I must confess I had heard the name but wasn't sure exactly who Cinna was. I had to pause my reading to do some of my own research. 

 

While the author has said there are no plans for more Gordianus novels, there was a door left open at the end of the novel for a spin off. I'm not going lie, the idea of a spin-off doesn't thrill me. The prequels were enough of a flop that I'm not sure I'm interested in anything other than Gordianus as "the Finder". 

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text 2018-05-08 15:43
Reading progress update: I've read 250 out of 400 pages.
The Throne of Caesar: A Mystery of Ancient Rome - Steven Saylor

"Aren't you going to bed?"

"I need to find out how Caesar dies."

"What? You know how Caesar dies. You have a t-shirt all about how Caesar dies. You just wore it. You even stabbed Caesar yourself when you played Assassin's Creed."

"I need to see how Caesar dies from Gordianus' point of view. It's different."

"How many different ways can a man be stabbed?"

 

 

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review 2018-04-25 21:07
Compelling WWII historical fiction, coming-of-age and M/M love story, and a fascinating backdrop.
The Artist and the Soldier. A Novel - Angelle Petta

When I was approached about the possibility of reviewing this book, I was fascinated by the historical background behind it, which I was not familiar with. A book combining World War II, Nazi summer camps in the US, the filming of a movie by Vittorio De Sicca in Rome during the war, and a love story, had to be a winner.

The author manages to combine a coming-of-age (both male protagonists, Max and Bastian, are very young at the beginning of the book) and love story with a fascinating historical background. The two youths meet at a Nazi summer camp in New York. Both their fathers are German and want them to grow up aware of their heritage. Max and Bastian are, in many ways, mirror images of each other, opposites that, indeed, attract. Bastian looks German (blond, tall, strong), is impulsive and always excels when it comes to sports, and outdoor activities, whilst Max takes after his Italian mother, is quiet, and has the soul of an artist. They both suffer trauma and have difficult childhoods, although in different ways. The unlikely pair becomes close and Bastian supports Max when tragedy strikes, although things take a bad turn, and they end up separated by life and circumstances.

They go their separate ways, and we keep waiting, convinced they will meet again. Bastian is still daring, impulsive, and is plagued by self-hatred and doubt. Max, who has always been more accepting of his own identity and has become stronger and more determined, has been living in Italy, has studied film, and finds a great opportunity to help Italian Jews. He takes part in the project of filming a movie under the protection of the Vatican and comes up with the idea of offering them contracts there. De Sica is determined to keep filming for as long as he can to keep all those people safe, and this historical fact provides a fascinating backdrop to the story of the two lovers.

The story, told in the third person, follows the point of view of the two male characters first, and later we also get to read about the adventures of Ilsa, Bastian’s sister, a fantastic character, from her point of view. She is strong, a fighter, and is determined to find her brother, no matter how far she has to go and what she has to do. Her experiences as a nurse during the war are gripping, and she keeps working despite terrible personal loss, hardship, and deprivation. Her character allows us to see things from a different perspective and also provides us more background into Bastian’s character, that is, perhaps, the most complex of the book, at least in my opinion.

Although the love story is central to the book, this is not a light and easy book to read. Apart from the tragedy and the terrible events that happen during the war, there is child abuse, mental illness, bullying, and the novel does not shy away from the unsavoury aspects of life. The characters are not all good and perfect either, and they sometimes do things that are questionable, while at others they can behave like true heroes.

The writing beautifully conveys the emotions of the characters, the setting (Rome as an open city provides a great backdrop), and the relationships, without going over the top with the descriptions, and ensuring the story keeps moving at a good pace. Being a big movie fan, I would have liked to read more about the filming of the movie, but the author refrains from getting sidetracked, and the guest appearances by the actors of the film and the interventions by De Sica are all the more enjoyable for being kept under control and not overwhelming the main story.

I wanted to share a couple of quotes from the book:

“Travel safely, signora. It is a dangerous world we are living in.” Her world had always been a dangerous one. A gun instead of a fist, a war instead of an irate father, her present didn’t feel so different from her past.” (This reflection belongs to Ilsa, Bastian’s sister).

Did something as inconsequential as film belong in this new world? It was De Sica who’d helped him see his misconception. “We need film, and music, and art, more than ever now,” De Sica had said. “These mediums help us remember that we are humans living in a world filled with monsters. What we are doing here is not frivolous. It is saving us, our humanity.” (Max questions his vocation, but De Sica comes to the rescue).

The ending feels appropriate and fits in well with a love story. It shows that both characters have grown and learned to accept who they are and what their relationship means. Other issues are resolved as well, and although some of the coincidences and the way the characters always seem to be in the right place at the right time require some suspension of disbelief, this does not go beyond the expectations for the genre.

In an end note, the author explains the conception of the story and clarifies that although Max, Bastian, and Ilsa are creations of her own imagination, the historical events and backdrop are accurate, and she has used her fictional characters as a conduit to tell the story. I believe this would be a great selection for book clubs, as there is much to discuss and many interesting aspects that will attract readers of different types of stories.

I recommend this book to readers of historical fiction, especially those interested in WWII, Italian cinema, and love stories with complex protagonists. I look forward to following the author’s career in the future.

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review 2018-04-08 17:27
Excellent storytelling!
The Keeper's Crown - Nathan D. Maki

The story of the biblical, Paul of Tarsus, particularly his final years as a prisoner of Rome waiting to be seen by Nero and the fictional account of the soldier who guarded him, in this case a Roman called Quintus whose family has fallen from favor due to a childhood incident involving a younger Nero and Quintus.

 

 

I totally loved this book! It was very well written and engaging. The author certainly did his homework. It's funny too, because I just watched the movie, "Paul, the Apostle of Christ", so it was easy to picture what was going on.

 


Wonderful story of redemption, courage, and faith in a time when being a Christian was a death sentence. Highly recommended! Keeping this author in my "must read" list.

 

5 stars and a favorite

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text 2018-03-09 09:37
Tea's TBR Thursday - March 8, 2018
The Long Way Home - David Laskin
A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle
The Darkness Knows (Viv and Charlie Mystery) - Cheryl Honigford
Celtic Myth & Magick: Harness the Power of the Gods & Goddesses - Edain McCoy
I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life - Ed Yong
Mistress of Rome - Kate Quinn
The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard's Most Daring Sea Rescue - Michael J. Tougias,Casey Sherman

*Bookish meme created by Moonlight Reader

 

Books added to my personal TBR:

1. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (NOOK)

2. The Long Way Home by David Laskin (NOOK)

3. The Darkness Knows by Cheryl Honigford (NOOK)

4. Mistress of Rome (The Empress of Rome #1) by Kate Quinn

 

Books borrowed from the library:

1. Celtic Myth and Magick by Edain McCoy

 

Books put on hold at the library:

1. I Contain Multitudes by Ed Young

2. The Finest Hours by Casey Sherman and Michael J. Tougias

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Books Read:

1. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (personal copy)

2. Danger in High Heels (High Heels #7) by Gemma Halliday (personal copy)

3. Deadly in High Heels (High Heels #9) by Gemma Halliday (personal copy)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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