Book Reviews

61. Roman Blood by Steven Saylor - This series of mysteries was recommended to me when I was lamenting the end of the HBO series Rome. I owe the recommender a fruit basket or something, because these books seem to be everything that show was, and more. The books follow the cases of fictional character Giordiannus The Finder (1st Century BC for Private Detective), with many real historic figures included to provide the plots. In this book, it's just-starting-out orator Cicero (yes, that Cicero) and his loyal, smart, and thinking-with-the-wrong-head slave Tiro that join Giordiannus to exonerate a wealthy farmer accused of one the worst things a person could do in ancient Rome - patricide. It looks like I'm hooked on another series.

62. Hotel de Dream: A New York Novel by Edmund White - A fascinating piece of RPF about a novel that Stephen Crane most likely never wrote. During his last days, Crane narrates a final story to his wife about a young prostitute in late 19 century New York and the man who loved him. On the Crane side of this story within a story, several other literary figures make appearances (Henry James and Joseph Conrad most notably), to talk shop with their contemporary and end up giving their opinions about Crane's choice of subject for his last book. White does a good job of turning two stories into one, with just enough nonfiction included to make it an almost believable fiction - exactly what RPF should be.

63. Lord John And The Private Matter by Diana Gabaldon - I enjoyed the first two or three books in Gabaldon's Outlander series, but lost interest as the dramatic plot became second to the romance and domestic issues of the characters. When I discovered that she'd written a book about perhaps the most interesting side character from the whole series, British soldier Lord John Gray, I had to give her another try. This is an author who knows how to research a time period and how to make that research come alive. The plot of this book, Lord John investigating a murder of a soldier and at the same time trying to discover if his cousin's betrothed is fit to be a husband, is over the top with twists and red herrings. However, the sense of place and time, especially when Lord John is dealing with his own secrets, had me reading this book straight through. It's a fast, light and enjoyable read for those who think there's a serious shortage of books that include Molly houses and the men who patronize them.

64. Feast of Love by Charles Baxter - The hook (some would say beauty) of this book is in its simplicity - simplicity of characters, simplicity of story, and, most importantly, simplicity of writing. The premise is an author interviewing people about their experiences with love. What we get is ordinary people being made extraordinary because they dared to love someone else. From that point of view, this is a wonderful book. However, I felt that by halfway through you could guess where a character was headed, or worse yet, didn’t care in the case of the female narrators, who all come across as more immature and self involved than the male characters. It’s a great book if you’re looking for something that says that love is more than worth the pain, but if you’re looking for more than that, you might be disappointed. I certainly was.

65. The Indian Clerk by David Leavitt - Don't let the math scare you off of reading this book. You don't need to understand it, you simply need to understand what it is to be able to work in the field you love and discover that work alone does not make your life complete. The characters in this book set in WWI era London and Cambridge could work any where and in any field and still go through the self discovery and heart break that makes up this book. Leavitt does his normal fantastic job with sense of place and time, but seems to have lost his ability to edit, as the book rambles a bit, then covers major plot points in a few paragraphs. This is not Leavitt's best work, but it's still a good read.


Alan Scott said...

Steven Saylor's Giordanus series is one of my favorites, too. I visited his web-site, thanks to the link you posted. I need to pick up where I left off.

DJRM said...

I'm reading the collection of short stories he wrote to fill in the time line between the first and second novels before I go on to the second book. I'm very glad there are quite a few books in the Sub Rosa series and that he's still writing them.