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review 2018-07-31 18:16
The Roman Way: How to Grow Old - Ancient Wisdom for the Second Half of Life by Marcus Tullius Cicero
How to Grow Old: Ancient Wisdom for the Second Half of Life - Marcus Tullius Cicero,Philip Freeman

 


Cicero was full of shit.

Though I did some Classics in the 80s, I barely read any Cicero. (This was out of personal indolence, not the fault of my courses...) He is one of the people from the Graeco-Roman world I really would like to read a bit more of than I did back then - probably in translation on a long National Express coach journey, or something. The impression I retain of Cicero is attractive: someone vain, voluble, companionable, and - crucially - warm; somewhat larger than life, volcanic by temperament, capable of being quite formidable. I think he was like some figures in the performing arts up and down my lifetime, certain directors - I can't even name names right now - rather than politicians I can think of who are active now. I'm sure I've met something of him in a number of people. I dare say the bar still accommodates people with his talents and personality and virtues - I have just known very few people who work there.

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

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review 2018-07-12 06:52
Mortal Republic by Edward J. Watts
Mortal Republic: How Rome Fell into Tyranny - Edward Watts

TITLE:  Mortal Republic:  How Rome Fell Into Tyranny

 

AUTHOR:  Edward J. Watts

 

PUBLICATION DATE:  6 November 2018

 

FORMAT:  ARC ebook

 

ISBN-13:  978-0-465-09381-6

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NOTE: I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this book from NetGalley. This review is my honest opinion of the book.

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Book Description:

"A new history of the Roman Republic and its collapse.

In Mortal Republic, prizewinning historian Edward J. Watts offers a new history of the fall of the Roman Republic that explains why Rome exchanged freedom for autocracy. For centuries, even as Rome grew into the Mediterranean's premier military and political power, its governing institutions, parliamentary rules, and political customs successfully fostered negotiation and compromise. By the 130s BC, however, Rome's leaders increasingly used these same tools to cynically pursue individual gain and obstruct their opponents. As the center decayed and dysfunction grew, arguments between politicians gave way to political violence in the streets. The stage was set for destructive civil wars--and ultimately the imperial reign of Augustus.

The death of Rome's Republic was not inevitable. In Mortal Republic, Watts shows it died because it was allowed to, from thousands of small wounds inflicted by Romans who assumed that it would last forever.
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I usually battle to enjoy history books that deal with the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire - they are just too confusing and boring.  THIS book is different.  I actually enjoyed reading it.  The writing is clear and accessible, the subject straightforward, and the relevance of that subject to the current political climate highlighted.  

Mortal Republic covers the Roman Republic period between 280 BC and 27 BC, when the Roman Senate formally granted Octavian overarching power and the new title Augustus, effectively marking the end of the Roman Republic.  This book is not a biography of any particular set of Romans nor is it exclusively a military history.  It does however successfully weave together politics, military, social and biographical details, along with the how and why events occurred and what this meant for the Repbulic in the long term.  
 
In addition to a general history of the Roman Republic, Watts attempts to understand the current political realities of our world by studying what went wrong in the ancient Roman Republic, upon which many modern republics are based.  The author makes evident that serious problems arise from both politicians who disrupt a republic's political norms, and from the citizens who choose not to punish them for doing so.  In the end, Romans came to believe that liberty - political stability and freedom from domestic violence and foreign interference - could only exist in a political entity controlled by one man.  This book explores why one of the longest-existing republics traded the liberty of political autonomy for the security of autocracy.  

I found this book to be enjoyable, well-written and providing a new perspective on an old topic.

 

 

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review 2018-07-11 14:46
Tastes Like Fear: DI Marnie Rome 3 - Headline Digital,Sarah Hilary,Imogen Church

A girl, seemingly distressed, runs in front of a car and causes a fatal accident. Marnie Rome and her team are on her trail but before she can be found another girl is found dead. Are the two girls linked? Where have they been staying? It is with Harm, a man who offers shelter to those who live on the streets. But is there more to Harm than meets the eye? Just how safe are the lost girls? After all, home is where Harm is….

There are some authors whose books find you in a quandary. You eagerly await the release of their latest novel but once it is in your hands you want to eek out reading it, delaying the gratification you know will follow, wanting to treasure each moment you have with the world they have created. Sarah Hilary’s books are such books as these. I eagerly await each new Marnie Rome novel, then put off reading it for as long as possible, knowing the wait for the next will be interminable. But then I got to the point I could wait no longer. But worth the wait it was.

It was a joy to return to Marnie’s often dark and twisted world, a world where she has to conquer devilish criminals and her own feelings for her foster brother Stephen Keene, the brother who murdered her parents. Stephen doesn’t feature as much in this story, but he is still there, lurking in the background, casting a sinister shadow over Marnie’s life. It was also great to see more of Noah Jake, and his personal life, insights into his relationship with Dan and background as to the troubled past of his brother Sol. As for the other characters they were all perfectly placed and imagined. They brought with them sadness, fear and pulled the story together perfectly. Particularly Harm, a terrifying yet abstract man, used to hiding his true self, which made the real him, when revealed, all the more terrible.

This case hits close to home for Marnie, involving runaway girls, girls she can see mirroring herself as a teenager. It is with sadness that she can now look back on her actions, and those of her parents, with an adult understanding, one she wishes she could share with the children involved.

A staple of Sarah Hilary’s novels is the choice of an abstract, little known or written about crime or condition as a driving force for the story. This is the case for Tastes Like Fear. Harm casts a strange spell over his victims, one which Marnie and Noah have not experienced before, but find chilling. The clues are carefully revealed, leaving a trail that allows the reader to work out parts of the story just before Marnie and Noah reach the same conclusion. It was as always a great source of reading fun, pitting my investigative wits against Harm, trying to figure out who it was or what had happened.

This is the third novel to feature Marnie Rome and whilst it can be read as a standalone I would urge you to read Someone Else’s Skin and No Other Darkness first, simply so you don’t miss out on such terrific novels.

As always, Sarah Hilary has written a taut, gripping and brilliantly stifling thriller, one which grabs you at the first page and makes you want to cling on until the very end.

In Someone Else’s Skin Sarah Hilary set herself out as one to watch. She is now an author that is firmly on the crime writing scene, and a standout author at that. It is often suggested that genre novels, in particular crime novels, aren’t as ‘worthy’ as literary fiction, not a notion I’d endorse. I’d suggest that whoever says this hasn’t read a novel such as one by Sarah Hilary. She is an author that can be relied upon to create compelling, moving crime thrillers, tackling little mentioned crimes, shied away from or unknown in the wider world but which lend themselves to moving, thought-provoking stories.

Sarah Hilary joins the short list of authors, including Jonathan Kellerman and Donna Leon that I eagerly anticipate. I look forward to reading more from her in the future.

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review 2018-06-04 12:10
SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard
SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome - Mary Beard

TITLE:  SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome

 

AUTHOR:  Mary Beard

 

DATE PUBLISEHD:  2016

 

FORMAT:  Paperback

 

ISBN-13:  9781631492228

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Mary Beard has writen an accessible history of the rise of Rome, it's people and it's senate.  The book deals with events that are dated to 753BC, and ends in 212 BCE with Caracalla's decree extending citizenship to all free men living within the Empire.  The book deals with those in power as well as the little people, how Rome expanded its power and maintained it.  Beard deals with archaeological and well as written sources for her information.  While the book was informative, the subject matter tended to be a bit superficial and the writing style too chatty.  This might make a good introductory text if the reader is not interested in biographies of important Roman citizens.

 

 

OTHER BOOKS

 

The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome's Deadliest Enemy
by Adrienne Mayor

 

 Carthage Must Be Destroyed: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Civilization
by Richard Miles

 

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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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