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review 2018-08-20 07:40
Dracula: Prince of Many Faces by Radu R. Florescu & Raymond T. McNally
Dracula, Prince of Many Faces: His Life and His Times - Raymond T. McNally,Radu Florescu

TITLE:  Dracula:  Prince of Many Faces (His Life & His Times)

 

AUTHORS:  Radu R. Florescu & Raymond T. McNally

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  1989

 

FORMAT:  Paperback

 

ISBN-13:  9780316286565

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From the blurb:

"Dracula: Prince of Many Faces reveals the extraordinary life and times of the infamous Vlad Dracula of Romania (1431-1476), nicknamed the Impaler.  Dreaded by his enemies, emulated by later rulers like Ivan the Terrible, honored by his countrymen even today, Vlad Dracula was surely one of the most intriguing figures to have stalked the corridors of European and Asian capitals in the fifteenth century.

 

Vlad Dracula aslo served as the inspiration for Bram stoker's classic vampire tale.  However, as this biography proves, "the real Dracula is far more interesting than the fictional vampire created by Bram Stoker" (Houston Chronicle).  Covering Vlad Dracula's entire life and subsequent legend, this book includes "a fascinating chapter on the mystery of Dracula's empty grave" (New York Time Book Review)."

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Florescue and McNally have written a a biography about Vlad the Impaler that is interesting, rich in detail, even-handed and circumspect.  The book does a wonderful job of weaving together Dracula's personal life and ambitions with the cultural, social, political and military realities of the time.  The authors also manage to separate fact from speculation without ruining the flow of the narrative.  They were also at pains to separate the myth from the man.  The book also examines Bram Stoker's Dracula novel in light of the real Dracula and his country.  Dracula:  Prince of Many Faces examines who Dracula was to various people - his family, his countrymen, the neighbouring states and his Ottoman enemies. Overall, this is one of the better biographies I have enjoyed.

 

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review 2018-07-23 09:20
Founder, Fighter, Saxon Queen by Margaret C. Jones
Founder, Fighter, Saxon Queen: Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians - Margaret Jones

TITLE:  Founder, Fighter, Saxon Queen:  Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians

 

AUTHOR: Margaret C. Jones

 

EXPECTED PUBLICATION DATE:       

30 August 2018

 

FORMAT: ARC ebook

 

ISBN-13: 9781526733962

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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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This biography is about Alfred the Great's daughter, Aethelflaed; about ther life and achievements, as well as the world that made her.  Aethelflaed was a remarkable women who led armies in battle against the vikings, negotiated treaties, founded shrines and churches, planned towns, and ruled a kingdom in her own right, which involved tax collection and law administration.  She also attempted to pass the rule of Mercia to her daughter Aelfwynn.  This well-written and well researched book covers the cultural and familial world that shaped Aethelflaed's personality and beliefs.  It covers her early life, the years of her marriage, and the world she made after her husband's death.  An interesting chapter deals with Aethelflaed's legacy and legand.  The book also includes a section of notes that provides a guide of places around the Midlands that still bear traces of Aethelflaed's life and work or have memorial tributes to her, which may be of interest to anyone travelling to this part of England.  There are many maps and illustrations, however this book lacks a locality map of where Mercia fits into Greater England and also lacking is a timeline.  While I found this biography interesting and accessible ( narrative was distinctly story-like), there was too much speculation on the part of the author, though this appears to be due to the lack of reliable source material for this time period.  All-in-all, this is an entertaining and informative, if somewhat superficial, biography of Aethelflaed, Queen of Mercia.

 

 

OTHER BOOK:


A Brief History of the Anglo-Saxons: The Beginnings of the English Nation by Geoffrey Hindley

 

 

 

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review 2018-07-12 06:52
Mortal Republic by Edward J. Watts
Mortal Republic: How Rome Fell into Tyranny - Edward J. 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 2018-06-04 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 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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