Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner


The ratings:
5 stars  excellent
4 stars  very good
3 stars  good
2 stars  fair
1 stars  poor

Blog stats:

Navigate the site:

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)

Advertise: Rates & stats

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:

  


March 2020: Book notices

Printer-friendly pages! To print the complete review, click here and print. Use print preview to see print styling.

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

Printer-friendly pages! To print the complete review, click here and print. Use print preview to see print styling.

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

Printer-friendly pages! To print the complete review, click here and print. Use print preview to see print styling.

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

Printer-friendly pages! To print the complete review, click here and print. Use print preview to see print styling.

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

Printer-friendly pages! To print the complete review, click here and print. Use print preview to see print styling.

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

Printer-friendly pages! To print the complete review, click here and print. Use print preview to see print styling.

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.

August 2019: Book notices

Printer-friendly pages! To print the complete review, click here and print. Use print preview to see print styling.

John Braddock, A Spy's Guide to Taking Risks

  Amazon  

John Braddock is back with another brief, highly readable entry in his Spy's Guide series. This time, he walks us through a meeting with a source while explaining an approach to minimizing risks by adding extra conditions into the risk equation. It's always enjoyable to watch Braddock unpack potentially dangerous situations, and I think the information about risk taking in this one may be more potentially useful in the real world for me than the information in previous stories in the series. Another good, quick read.

Blake Crouch, Recursion

  Amazon  

As he did in Dark Matter, Blake Crouch explores the repercussions of cutting-edge science in his latest novel, Recursion. Helena Smith's research into memory retrieval is funded liberally by an eccentric billionaire who sometimes seems to  know more than he should about her project. Turns out, he has ulterior motives, and her research has practical applications she's never dreamed of. Once her life's work is completed, there's another lifetime of work ahead of her as she tries to deal with the consequences of her creation. Along the way she teams up with Barry, a policeman, who unwittingly stumbles into the nightmare Helena's research has created. Recursion is a complex, mind-bending story that may even merit a second read. I liked it as much—or nearly as much—as Dark Matter, which is to say, quite a lot.

Joseph Finder, Judgment

  Amazon  

I've been a fan of Joseph Finder's for more than fifteen years, and I've read the majority of his books. This is not one of the better ones, I'm afraid. The setup is very promising: A usually cautious judge makes a rash decision while out of town that leaves her vulnerable to blackmail and threatens to ruin her life. I love a story like this, where a relatable person gets in over their head and is thrust into impossible circumstances through a series of understandable decisions. But this time the setup never thrills. A lot of the story has to do with the minutiae of a legal case the judge is presiding over, and a lot of that is related to finances—not the stuff of thrillers, really. More importantly, while there's real physical danger involved, it's not treated as real. The protagonist is nearly choked to death, for example, but while she's shaken, she doesn't seem to have any visible bruises the next day. The judge's family is in at least as much danger as she is, but when she finally bothers to tell her husband (so that maybe he can keep a closer eye on their son, say), that conversation—which I'd been waiting for for chapters—takes place off-screen! The family is treated throughout as an afterthought. There was a lot of potential to rack up the tension there, but it all just falls flat. And the denouement is tepid. If you're new to Joseph Finder, give this one a pass, because it's really not representative of his talents.

July 2019: Book notices

Printer-friendly pages! To print the complete review, click here and print. Use print preview to see print styling.

Peter Swanson, The Kind Worth Killing

  Amazon  

This book just prompted me to make an actual physical list of must-read authors with Peter Swanson's name on it so I won't run the chance of forgetting how much I loved The Kind Worth Killing. What a wonderful, complex, twist-filled page-turner. It starts with a nod to Strangers on a Train. The movie was directed by Alfred Hitchcock, yes, but the book was written by the wonderful Patricia Highsmith. And when Ted meets Lily in an airport, she's reading a Highsmith novel (Two Faces of January, "Not one of the best"). They talk. Ted's wife is cheating on him. Plans emerge. And it gets more interesting and a lot more complicated from there. It's a great book with, incidentally, a fantastic cover, and with a final paragraph that elicited an audible exclamation of delight from me.

Claire McGowan, What You Did

  Amazon  

I got this as an Amazon First Reads selection, and I'm glad I did. It kept me interested and guessing to the end. Six friends from college get together for a reunion--two couples, Ali and Mike and Jodi and Callum, and two singles, Karen and Bill. They spend the night drinking and reliving their Oxford days, and everything is great until Karen staggers in from the backyard claiming she was raped by Mike. It's he said/she said, and Mike's wife, Ali, has to choose sides. Things get worse from there. At the same time, there's a ghost in their past: An acquaintance was murdered at the very end of their time at Oxford, and her attacker was never found. Could there be a connection? Anyway, it's a book worth reading.


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.

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  






The Sunday Salon.com



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