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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.



  
From a random review:

  


June 2020: Book notices

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Edward Dolnick, The Rescue Artist

  Amazon  

In this very readable narrative, Edward Dolnick writes about the 1994 theft of Edvard Munch's Scream (or one version of the piece, as there are several) from Norway's National Gallery and the ensuing undercover operation, which resulted in its recovery a few months later. The star of that show, and of Dolnick's book, is English/American detective Charley Hill, a larger-than-life member at the time of Scotland Yard's so-called Art Squad. The book also introduces readers to the world of art crime (security in the art world is surprisingly lax, and priceless masterpieces aren't necessarily insured) and the criminals who commit it. We also learn a bit about Edvard Munch and his work along the way. This is very well-done nonfiction.

May 2020: Book notices

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Gregg Hurwitz, Into the Fire

  Amazon  

Into the Fire details Orphan X's latest--and maybe his final--mission This time, he's contacted on his super secure RoamZone phone by Max Merriweather, a down-on-his-luck construction worker who lands in serious trouble after his golden-boy cousin gives him an envelope for safekeeping. And then the usual: lots of bad guys, and Evan using his unusual talents to save the day. Meanwhile, he's determined that this will be his final mission. He's hoping to settle down afterwards and live a normal life--if he can figure out what normal is. But is it really his last mission? Maybe. Probably not. On the one hand, the book's ending ties things up well so that it would make a good closer to the series. On the other hand, it also opens the door to further adventures ahead, should the author choose to continue. In either case, another good read from Gregg Hurwitz in an enjoyable series.

Lee Goldberg, Killer Thriller

  Amazon  

Ian Ludlow has a good imagination and an uncanny knack for writing fiction that comes true. His latest book is being turned into a movie, and Ian is on set in Hong Kong with Margo French, dog walker turned author escort, etc., who's there to scout locations for Ian's next Clint Straker novel. Turns out there's a plot against the U.S. government, and the world once again needs the services of Clint Straker...er, Ian Ludlow. I like Lee Goldberg's novels and have read a whole lot of them over the years, but I didn't get into this one as much as previous titles. Probably it's a me thing: There was too much time between reading sessions, and I wound up forgetting the plot and having to look up characters. That said, I do like the developments that happen in this book and how things are set up for the next installment in the series (Fake Truth, which came out in April, 2020).

March 2020: Book notices

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Rachel Hoffman, Unf*ck Your Habitat

  Amazon  

This is a book about cleaning that might have been written by your therapist. Rachel Hoffman--who doesn't seem to be a therapist in fact--gives advice about cleaning, sure, but the real value here is in her advice about less palpable cleaning-related problems--how to overcome the dread of starting larger projects, how to talk to people you share your space with about sharing responsibilities. The book is surprisingly wise. It's worth a read, particularly if you're trying to navigate a roommate/spousal situation in which chores need to be divvied up.

February 2020: Book notices

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Loreth Anne White, In the Dark

  Amazon  

In the Dark is a story about what happens when a group of people is put in a real-life Survivor-type situation. Eight guests and their pilot are invited to go on an all-expenses-paid trip to a secluded lodge in British Columbia, but the lodge is not the luxury destination they expected, and it turns out that the various guests share some dark ties with one another. Their story at the lodge is overtly patterned on the Agatha Christie novel And Then There Were None. Creepy stuff happens. Chapters detailing the dark goings-on at the lodge alternate with an account of the search and rescue operation that would occur later. This is lighter fare, but still not very light. It pairs grieving RCMP officer Mason Deniaud, who's new to the wilderness of Kluhane Bay, with grieving search and rescue expert Callie Sutton. There's potential for romance here, but she's off-limits for now, which of course adds some welcome tension to their relationship. Anyway, these two parts of the story mesh together nicely. The only boring bit was at the very end, when there was too much explication. I don't know if there's a sequel in the works, but I think the relationship between Mason and Callie was interesting enough that I'd stick around for a second Kluhane Bay novel.

January 2020: Book notices

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Lee Goldberg, Lost Hills

  Amazon  

This is the first book in a new series by Lee Goldberg, author of a bajillion books, including the late Monk series, which I enjoyed a lot. This one is a police procedural focused on Eve Ronin, a newbie in the L.A. County Sheriff's Department's Robbery and Homicide Division, who got her position because of politics and unsought fame from a viral video she unwittingly starred in. This doesn't win her any friends in the department, but her seasoned partner, Duncan, has her back more often than not. Turns out she's good at what she does. She takes the lead in the investigation of a triple homicide and proves that the grit she showed in that viral video wasn't a one-off. She's also pretty clever. That sounds like it could be annoying: The new female cop shows everybody how great she is by making astute observations and out-performing the more experienced men. But it's not like that. Ronin is likable but flawed, smart, but credibly so. She makes mistakes, and her partner is usually the first to point them out. I like their interaction a lot. Unfortunately, he's due to retire in less than a year, which worries me about future books in the series: I want more of the two of them. Goldberg, like Duncan, is a seasoned pro. He makes writing look easy. Often his books are humorous, and they're often steeped in references to television and old Hollywood. This one is more serious than I'm used to from him--which is appropriate in this case and works very well. It does have a taste of Hollywood in it--the setting, certain aspects of the crime, and Eve's mother, a wannabe star. If I had to complain about anything in the book, it's that the mother comes off as a little cartoony in a story where that doesn't quite fit. I'm not usually a big fan of police procedurals, but I liked this one a lot, and I'm looking forward to the next in the series, Bone Canyon, which is due in early 2021.

December 2019: Book notices

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Jeremy Bates, The Sleep Experiment

  Amazon  

UC Berkeley professor Roy Wallis is conducting a sleep experiment in the basement of a soon-to-be-demolished building on campus. He's got two students working with him, both of them enamored of the wealthy, confident, allegedly brilliant Wallis in their own ways. The plan is to keep watch over two subjects who will be staying in an apartment fishbowl Wallis has built. An experimental gas will be piped in that will prevent the two from sleeping, and this will go on for, well, as long as it takes. After a long setup, the experiment starts, and things go downhill from there. Wallis's methods aren't exactly kosher, and his motives aren't pure. And by the time anyone cottons on to this, it's too late. Bad things happen. Seventy-five percent of the way in, the book becomes a gore fest, and the plot becomes almost secondary. Indeed, the story is not tight at all. Characters are introduced who don't wind up mattering; characters who do matter aren't introduced. The relationships described in the first part of the book come to very little. And the story is scarcely credible. (And not just the really crazy parts.) I left the book dissatisfied.

Linwood Barclay, Elevator Pitch

  Amazon  

New York is brought to its knees when some evil mastermind gains control of a few elevators and kills a bunch of people. Suddenly, vertical travel in this vertical city means taking your life in your hands. New Yorkers are trapped in their high rises or are having heart attacks on the stairs. Governor Richard Headley is at pains to respond without creating a panic, and the media--particularly Manhattan Day writer Barbara Matheson--isn't making his job any easier. The story follows her reporting, the mayor's response to the crisis, a related police investigation, and a side story about a domestic terrorist. It's a good read, built on an interesting premise, but not a great one. I was never lost in it, as I have been reading other books by Barclay.

November 2019: Book notices

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Alexander McCall Smith, The Department of Sensitive Crimes

  Amazon  

Ulf Varg heads up a crew of quirky detectives in Sweden's Department of Sensitive Crimes. They investigate unusual offenses--those that have odd elements or maybe aren't worth the attention of a more traditional police investigation. Honestly, the office seems overstaffed and underworked, and the cases not really worthy of extraordinary official involvement. But I don't care. It's an excuse to watch McCall Smith bring the formula he's established in his No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books to a new set of endearing characters and to a new exotic locale. That's basically what's happening here. Ulf Varg--both of whose names mean "wolf"--is the Precious Ramotswe of Malmö. He's a kind, thoughtful man who observes the foibles of humanity and investigates their indiscretions. I enjoyed the book, and I think fans of McCall Smith's Botswana books will find this series equally comforting.

September 2019: Book notices

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Mark Edwards, Here to Stay

  Amazon  

Elliot gets married to Gemma after a whirlwind courtship, but when his inlaws come to visit, things go south fast. They're possibly the most annoying people on the planet, and they seem to have no intention of leaving. They're also malevolent. You'd think that malevolence would make for a good read, but this book was just plodding for me. It turns out that reading about annoying people is pretty annoying itself. Here to Stay was just interesting enough to keep me reading, but not so interesting that I ever came back to it with any pleasure. By the time things got a little exciting in the story—at the very end—it was too little, too late.


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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