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Books by the Blogger:

THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


paperback | Kindle | hardcover (US)
paperback | hardcover (UK)

THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


paperback | hardcover (US)
paperback | hardcover (UK)

PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


Kindle (US) | Kindle (UK)

SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


Kindle (US) | Kindle (UK)

ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


Kindle (US) | Kindle (UK)

IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

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Authors & publishers:
I've decided to stop accepting review copies. The downside of getting buried in free books is that reading increasingly becomes an obligatory act. After some seven years of blogging books, it's time for me to return to the simple pleasure of reading only the books I want to read, when I want to read them. The blog, however, will continue, and if you've got a good first line to share for TwitterLit please do so here.



  
From a random review:

  

« July 2017: Book notices | Main | September 2017: Book notices »

August 2017: Book notices

  

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Claire North, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August imagines a world in which a small percentage of the population are ouroborans or kalachakra--individuals who loop through time, reliving their lives indefinitely against a familiar historical backdrop. The big events don't change--at least, they're not supposed to--but the details of any specific life are what the individual makes it: you're born to the same parents, in the same place, but can choose a different career, a different spouse, a different college. The premise sets one thinking, and questions remain: as one Amazon reviewer noted, it's not clear what happens when one ouroboran dies. He goes back to his year of birth, but how does that timeline affect the others so afflicted? There is a villain in this book, with an Evil Scheme worthy of capital letters, but it's not entirely clear exactly what that scheme is. We know it's bad, but the details are sketchy. My only other complaint is that the book is longer than it needs to be. It's a richly imagined world, and that imagining takes time and pages, but still, I thought there were whole chapters that probably could have been lopped off without losing anything. At any rate, I don't want to dwell on these complaints, because I really enjoyed the book quite a lot, and found myself reading for long stretches when I should have been sleeping. It also brought back fond memories of Ken Grimwood's Replay, which has a similar theme and is highly recommended (my review).

Rachel Caine, Stillhouse Lake

This was a Kindle First selection in June of 2017, so in other words, it's probably not a book I would have known about had Amazon not offered a free copy to Prime members. Thank you, Amazon! What a taut, exciting read, from its grab-you-by-the-throat prologue to its cliffhanger ending. (The first thing I did upon finishing Stillhouse Lake was preorder its sequel, which is due out in December.) The book tells the story of "Gwen," the former wife of a psychopathic serial killer. She's now on the run, not so much from him but from the vigilantes who see her as complicit in her husband's crimes. She'll do anything to keep her kids safe, and of course she's called upon to do just that in this book. As far as I could tell, the story was perfectly constructed. At least, I didn't notice any problems as I was swiping furiously through the pages in the wee hours of the last couple of mornings. Looking forward to the sequel.

Penn Jillette, Presto

Presto is Penn Jillette's loose, somewhat rambling account of how he lost over a hundred pounds in the months before his 60th birthday in March of 2015. Confronted with the medical necessity of losing weight—the alternative was a stomach sleeve—Penn opted instead to go on a severely restricted diet under the mentorship of his friend Ray Cronise (and under the close scrutiny of medical doctors). The first part of this diet was a two-week potato fast—nothing but potatoes—and that was followed by the gradual reintroduction of other foods. Nowadays Penn eats mostly whole plants and is active and feeling better than he has in decades, for which, as a fan, I'm grateful.

Screen Shot 2017-08-11 at 3.54.35 PMMy daughters with Penn after a Penn and Teller
show in New York in the summer of 2015.

The book could have lost some weight itself: it's not the tangents that bother me—I kind of expect that (as well as a flood of curse words) when I'm reading something by Penn Jillette—but there was a lot of repetition in the book, and that could have been excised to good effect. Meanwhile, I have no interest in joining Penn on his extreme weight loss journey, because I couldn't handle the whole plant diet, but I do find the potato phase that he underwent intriguing. I've been inspired to read more about the idea in Tim Steele's The Potato Hack.

Paul Cleave, Trust No One

Jerry Grey is a successful crime novelist who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's at the age of only 49. As his dementia worsens, he begins losing the ability to separate his real life from the stories he's published. His behavior becomes increasingly unpredictable and problematic, and he winds up confessing to murder. The good news is that the crime he confesses to is from the pages of his first book. The bad news is that that book was based on a true story, the murder of Jerry's neighbor, and neither he nor we can be confident that Jerry is not in fact the knife-wielding sadist who killed the girl. There are other murders too, and Jerry looks pretty good for those crimes as well. The story jumps around, moving forward from Jerry's diagnosis, and it's picked up again later, after a major event that slowly gets pieced together. Jerry is quite the unreliable narrator, since his memory is spotty, and the information he gets from others may or may not be accurate. Part of the story is told by Jerry in his "Madness Journal," which he began writing early on as a way of reminding his future, forgetful self about things.

The story kept me guessing—although I actually guessed pretty well, as it turned out. The author cleverly keeps us and his protagonist in the dark, and it is all very confusing but nicely woven together, except for two things. First, the book should have been shorter. It dragged in parts, particularly the Madness Journal parts. And second, and more importantly, the Alzheimer's aspect of the plot just can't be taken seriously. As a patient with advanced dementia, Jerry is just far too competent, piecing clues together and reading his old notes, writing, making phone calls, getting around town. Plus he has an alter ego who is taking on a life of his own, as if a split personality is characteristic of the disease. So I kind of pretended that Jerry had some unspecified disease that diminished him mentally while allowing him to do the stuff he was allegedly doing, and that helped.

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Book-blog.com reviews by Debra Hamel are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

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About the blogger: Debra is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece, including Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  






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Book-blog.com by Debra Hamel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License.