Friday, July 11, 2014

Semper Fidelis by Ruth Downie

I loved the immersion into Roman Britain Ruth Downie provided again with "Semper Fidelis." The protagonist once again is Gaius Petreius Ruso, or Ruso; with his wife Tilla playing another strong role. Ms. Downie does a wonderful job of painting life in Roman Britain and Semper Fidelis is no exception. Her portrayal of Ruso, the Emperor Hadrian and his wife Sabina, Tilla, Geminus a Centurion, and the rest of the cast were all well developed and real. The mystery surrounding deaths of recruits and a cursed legion proved far too much for Ruso's curiosity to ignore. Leaving his duties as supervising doctor he began questioning the circumstances of death and disappearance. Along the way his wife Tilla discovers information pertinent to the plot endangering her life. Ruso faces jailing, torture, loss of social status, and the loss of his wife in this well written mystery. In a subtle hint the story ends in what I believe to be a wonderful surprise for both Tilla and Ruso.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Dark Monk by Oliver Potzsch

I'm roughly 100 pages shy of finishing the second book in the Hangmans Daughter series by Oliver Potzsch and  I have to admit I am struggling. Although I enjoy the history and description of German life during the period the book drags on towards  the end leaving me struggling to finish. 

Caveat Emptor by Ruth Downie

I finished Ruth Downie's fourth book in her Roman series, "Caveat Emptor," some time ago. It was once again a great story. I love the history and honest view of the reality of Roman Britain. Ruso's turn as an investigator put him in several sticky situations. Particularly given his penchant for strong ethical decision making. Ruso and Tilla as newlyweds made for interesting circumstances effecting the investigation and Tilla's status amongst the Roman bureaucracy. The most  serious being Tilla's name on Mettelus the spy's list of potential lawbreakers. 

Ruso's turn as investigator, hunting the missing money from Verulanium and the suspected thieves leads him on and adventure frought with danger, intrigue, and local history.

Simon Vance again provided a brilliant reading, keeping me involved from the get go. I recommend this and all the Ruso series by Ruth Downie to any lover of historical fiction.   

Friday, April 4, 2014

Persona Non Grata by Ruth Downie

I listened to Ruth Downie's "Persona Non Grata" by Ruth Downie and read by Simon Vance. As usual Ms. Downie brings a wonderful description of life in imperial Rome, this time in Ruso's home in Gaul. Ruso, the unwitting protagonist of Ruth Downie's Roman murder history series, decides it is a good time to take leave from the 20th Legion in Britain and brings Tilla, the native he saved in the first book, to his home in Gaul. Ruso received a letter requesting his urgent return and arrives to a house deep in family debts and not expecting his return. The confusion becomes mystery when Ruso works a deal to stave off legal action on the family debts with the main creditor just minutes before the creditor drops dead in Ruso's home. Ruso's brother, step-mother, and step-sisters all cause Ruso irritation and seem to get in the way of his efforts to solve the murder and keep the family name clear. Once again the characters, physical description, and Ruso's inner monologue are all delivered with the wonderful and detailed method that Ruth Downie delivers every time. Simon Vance did a wonderful job reading each character and delivering unique tone and depth to each. Overall the audio version of Persona Non Grata was wonderful and worth the listen.

March Reading Delay

I had some major surgery putting a slow down on hobbies a few weeks ago. I did, however, listen to a couple more audio books. Going to post a good summary on each. While rehabing I am reading another Oliver Potzsch book in the Hangman's Daughter series and unfortunately watching a lot of really bad daytime TV.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Potzsch

The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Potzsch was a wondrful look at life in small town Bavaria during the 17th century. The main character, a hangman descended from a line of hangmen named Jakob Kuisl, is kind hearted, common sensed, and hard working. He is intelligent and views his profession with a sense of realism. He privately struggles with the demons of his trade by drinking heavily in private. When he isn't torturing a suspected criminal for a confession or executing the convicted he is a healer of sorts creating potions and medicines cheaper than the town doctor. 

Jakob works with the son of the town doctor, Simon, a school educate doctor (albeit not graduated) unlike his father who never went to university to study medicine. The pair work together to solve the murder of children and prove the local midwife is falsely accused of both the murders and of wichcraft.

The title of the book comes from Jakob's daughter, Magdalena, who is a midwife in training but is stubborn like her father. She and Simon have an unapproved, discouraged, courtship as hangmen families are pariah. Much like her father Magdalena views the world in a practical sense and doesn't get caught up in hysteria. She provides the bridge between the two heroes and aids when she can.

In the end the Magdalena is abducted by the villain to force Jakob to find answers. The tale spins around old views, class struggles, and a town living more in the past than moving to the future. The town elders want a witches confession retrieved by the hangman before the Count's secretary arrives and the hangman isfighting against time to learn the truth.   

While many people found parts of the book tedious and some of the language out of place I lovedthe immersion into Bavarian culture of the time wonderful. Onto The Dark Monk, thenext book in the Series!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Terra Incognita by Ruth Downie

Ruth Downie once again lead me on a wonderful trip through Roman Britain. Her description of life during this era is simply wonderful. The main character, Ruso, volunteers to join an expidition north towards the eventual line of a finished Hadrian's Wall and again finds himself looking into another odd murder. Along the way his housekeeper, a native he calls Tilla, rediscovers her native people and an old lover. Ruso, Tilla, and a host of Romans and Britains all spin in circles either looking for or trying to hide the truth of the murder. Meanwhile Tilla's rediscovery of her people, her childhood home, and her less than scrupulous uncle  cause mixed feelings and come between Tilla and Ruso. Murder, marriage, and a clash of cultures continue in this wonderful story by an outstanding author.  

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Medicus by Ruth Downie

This book was fantastic! Medicus, by Ruth Downie, is the first in series of books about Roman life in Britannia. In particular life among Roman Legions as they work to secure the remote province. The main character, Gaius Petreius Ruso, is a doctor recently transferred to Deva (what is now Chester, England) assigned to the 20th Legion hospital. He brings with him the baggage of an ex-wife and the debt of father. With his family in Gaul owing money on the farm his father left to them he volunteers with the intent to send earnings back to his brother to save the family farm. Ruso settles into a meager life of attending patients and living with old friend Valens, another doctor assigned to the Legion. But it isn't long before Ruso's curiosity gets the best of him and he intervenes on behalf of a slave, ultimately buying her with the intent of treating her and selling her. He names her Tilla and rehabs her broken arm and eventually finds he has no desire to sell her. However, she proves more trouble than a simple slave and soon the Medicus is poking his nose into the disappearance of other slave girls from a local bar owned by Merula. From there the story introduces the reader to life in Roman Britannia, the less than wholesome life of a slave of Rome, and the corruption of Roman officials. Ms. Downie weaves a wonderful story including references of history and development of character that capture the imagination.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Current Readings and Goals

Right now I am reading Business and Society, 14th edition, by Anne T. Lawrence and James Weber for my coursework with Liberty University (BMAL 560, Corporate Responsibility). For personal reading I am lost Ruth Downie's Medicus, A Novel of the Roman Empire, and am impressed and addicted to her story telling and descriptions of Roman Britain. My goal is to post at least twice a month and read two books per month not including academic works. I have more than enough books on my iPad and hard copy to keep me busy for some time and I am looking forward to the challenge.

The Secret Crown by Chris Kuzneski

I wrapped up The Secret Crown by Chris Kuzneski a couple weeks ago. It's another Payne and Jones action on the trail of history and treasure story. This one centers on the possibility of the existence of Ludwig II, the Swan King, and his hidden treasure. Some of which may be property of foreign nations. Most of the action in the book takes place in Bavaria, with references and wonderful descriptions of Schloss Neuschwanstein, Schloss Linderhof, and several other castles and buildings ordered built by Ludwig. The story starts off fun enough with Payne and Jones asked to look at a bunker discovered by old friend Kaiser, a prior service supply soldier stationed in Europe who know ran an underground supply exchange across the globe from Germany, that contained gold and art long since lost to World War II. An eager foot soldier for Kaiser's main rival notices the commotion in the forest by the bunker and sees this as an opportunity to move up in his organization. Unfortunately for him Payne and Jones react well to adversity. Unfortunately for the story this is where the violence seemed to occur for the sake of violence. Kaiser's main rival Mueller, and his organization learn Kaiser was present for the commotion along with Petr Ulster from the Ulster Archives. Interest piqued but without really knowing what Kaiser found Mueller has his men chase Payne and Jones to the Linderhof palace. Payne and Jones can still handle themselves even with their backs to the wall so the confrontation at the Linderhof Palace doesn't really last long. Ultimately Payne, Jones, Petr Ulster, and a woman called Heidi (who in typical fashion is attractive and flirtatious with Payne) they met at the King's House on Schachen, eventually follow the clues found to a jeweler in Munich who'd been taught to wait for someone to show up with the right information so he could pass on the crown made for Ludwig II. Payne and Jones enlist another old friend, Nick Dial from Interpol, to help clean up the trail of bloodshed before wrapping the action up. All in all it was a fun quick read with the typical action and predictable banter. However the banter at times seemed too generic and contrived and the violence seemed needless. This book seemed more of a springboard into stories featuring Kaiser and Mueller. Not the best Payne and Jones but still a fun read.