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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


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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


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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:

  

« August 2017: Book notices | Main

September 2017: Book notices

  

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Elizabeth Edmondson, A Question of Inheritance

As I was reading this pleasant, "Very English" cozy set in small-town, post-war England, I found that for the life of me I couldn't remember how the first book in the series--which I reviewed here--was resolved. There were allusions in this one to the unpleasantness of the late Earl of Selchester that that first book revealed, but the details still elude me. It would have been good if readers were reminded a little more strongly (but not too obviously) about the events of the past. This disconnect was worsened by the fact that some events between the first book and this one were skipped here and evidently included in a novella. But who knew? You can kind of piece those events together, but one shouldn't have to. I like the setting and the characters of this series well enough, and it's not as if it's a very complex story being told, so perhaps I wasn't paying close enough attention. But I found that when the mystery of this outing's crime began to be unraveled in the last quarter or so of the book, I was forgetting characters and events that were important to that solution. And I didn't care enough to go back and look very hard. Elizabeth Edmondson died in 2016, after this book was published and while she was at work on a third. That book, A Matter of Loyalty, was completed by Edmondson's son and will be published in October of 2017.

Gregg Hurwitz, You're Next

Contractor Mike Wingate and his family are being targeted by a couple of very scary guys for reasons that Mike cannot fathom. Nor can we, although it seems to be related somehow to Mike's past, a sad childhood spent in a foster home waiting in vain for his father to come back for him. The home hardened Mike, taught him some skills, and earned him just the sort of friend you need when people are gunning for you. Hurwitz's stand-alone thriller is one of the most exciting books I've read in a while. The tension eased up briefly for me maybe 70% of the way through, when we started getting some answers about the mystery of Mike's past, but it picked up again. There's really nothing to complain about here. This was a great read.

John Braddock, A Spy's Guide to Thinking

In his Kindle Single, former CIA case officer John Braddock offers a very brief discussion of the DADA system of thinking: from Data to Analysis to Decision to Action. That sounds boring, maybe, but Braddock is engaging. He discusses the thinking strategy from the perspective of a spy on the ground in a foreign country. In particular, he tells a story about being accosted in a subway about his phone, a would-be mugging. The event unfolded in probably less than a minute in real time, but Braddock unpacks the incident, describing his thought process--his data collection and analysis, the options available to him--at each step. I found this fascinating. My only complaint about the Single is that Braddock has opted to write in very short sentences--which he explicitly says he's determined people like--and indeed in sentence fragments. People do like short sentences, it's true, but not all the time! Overdone, it comes off as very choppy and distracting, and I actually find the style almost burdensome. Tone that down, and this would be a pretty perfect short read. There's not a lot of meat here, but there aren't many pages, and the price was right. The author has a meatier follow-up available, A Spy's Guide to Strategy, which I can see myself buying at some point, though I haven't taken the plunge yet.

Lydia Kang, A Beautiful Poison

I wasn't expecting to like this book. In large part, that's because I really dislike the cover--yes, I am that shallow. Plus, it's a historical mystery, set during a period that doesn't interest me much. It's New York in 1918, which means World War I and the Spanish flu, both of which are winnowing the population with ferocity. I began the book mostly to get it off my shelf, thinking I'd probably delete it from my Kindle after the first chapter. Obviously, I didn't. The story centers on a trio of friends with a complicated history: Allene, the recently engaged socialite, her former ladies' companion Birdie, and Jasper, who's roguishly appealing and ambitious. They live in dangerous times, but for their social circle it's particularly dangerous: people around them are being killed with an assortment of poisons, and our protagonists are the only ones who seem to notice or care about the pattern. It's a good mystery, and I was more intrigued than I expected to be. I liked the relationship among the three principals. I suppose Allene is the main character of the three. My one complaint about the book is that I sometimes found her character hard to believe. On the one hand, she is a pampered aristocrat about whom it is possible to believe that she doesn't know how to open her house's front door by herself. On the other hand, she loves chemistry and is wont to conduct experiments with household supplies, which is rather unladylike. She's also excited by the prospect of solving a murder mystery. I realize that people can surprise with their seemingly opposed characteristics, but still, this was a little hard to believe. Apart from that, which only bothered me at times, I quite liked this story.

Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, When to Rob a Bank

This book is a collection of blog posts from the authors of Freakonomics, which is to say that everything in the book is freely available at freakonomics.com. So why buy it? Well, this collection is curated and organized and at $1.99, when I bought it, the price was right. It's a mixed bag of stuff, some of the articles more interesting than others. The authors' schtick is that they tend to surprise with counterintuitive observations. Within 48 hours of finishing this one I did have occasion to refer to their discussion of the ecological impact of wrapping fruit. I linked to it in a Facebook comment in a thread where people were knee-jerkedly condemning a company for packaging apples in plastic tubes. As with the paper or plastic question, the impact of this sort of packaging is not as obvious as Facebook readers may think. It's good to have someone out there pointing things like this out.

Amélie Antoine, Interference

Gabriel and Chloé are a happily married young couple. Emma is a wedding photographer/would-be photojournalist whose life ultimately intersects with theirs, though it's not immediately clear how she fits in. The story is told in alternating sections from each of their perspectives--Chloé's parts in first person, and Gabriel's and Emma's in third. From the beginning, we're perplexed about what's happening. It's no spoiler to tell you that Chloé dies early on in the story--the book's description tells us as much. But still, her narratives continue, and she has access post-death to information that surprises us, so her status is unclear. Is she a ghost? Is it that kind of book? If so, it's a romantic ghost story: Gabriel in his grief hooks up with Emma...but it's definitely not a straight romance either. When the big reveal comes, about 2/3 of the way in, it's definitely a shocker. The solution to the mystery strains credibility, a lot, but the story remains compelling and interesting. I think this could be turned into a decent movie.

Tim Tignere, Flash

It's hard to tell Tim Tigner's novels apart by appearance, as so many of them feature backlit figures running away from the viewer. This one, at any rate, is a stand-alone thriller. It begins with that active couple from the cover waking up in a car with a dead body but without any memory of the last seven-odd years. It remains for them, of course, to figure out what's going on. Flash won't go down in my list of all-time memorable reads, I'm sure, but it was highly entertaining. I'll definitely be reading more from this author.

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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.