Friday, October 30, 2020

The Eternal City -- Jessica Maier

A History of Rome in Maps

The University of Chicago Press
ISBN-13: 978-0-226-59145-2 (cloth)
ISBN-10: 0-226-59145-x
ISBN-13: 978-0-226-59159-9 (e-book)
November 4, 2020

Rome with its ancient and on-going history captures the attention and imagination of many people — researchers, historians, tourists, and readers — and its attraction has been on-going for centuries. Author Jessica Maier shows the perceptions of Rome both past and present as caught in maps through the ages. Some of these maps, while not as accurate, are like today’s maps. Others are more picturesque in form. When created, they held a specific purpose for their design.

Rome has a long history, and Maier lets the reader journey through the many ideas Rome has held from its inception, about which little is known and much guessed at, to the present. The book shows aspects of how all building stands next to, or on top of, those made in the past. It explains about Rome’s many changes and exposes information relatable to all major cities. As Maier states, Rome has had many reincarnations, and no city equals Rome’s resilience throughout the ages. As an example, she writes about San Clemente, a church in Rome dating back to the twelfth century which has a staircase leading down to a church of the fourth century upon which San Clemente was built. This fourth-century church was built on top of an old pagan temple, aspects of which can still be seen 60 feet below the ground level of San Clemente.

Maier states Rome is more than its architecture and buildings, for the maps show the inhabitants’ history, myths, and symbolism as shaped by gods, Caesars, pagans, Christians, and tourists alike. It is a fascinating study with an abundance of historical maps. Again, some are linear depictions of roads, ancient walls, and buildings while others are beautiful paintings showing the city’s changes through landscapes. The information is fascinating. How much did I like the book? Since I preordered a copy, a lot.

Monday, October 26, 2020

A Christmas Resolution: a Novel -- Anne Perry

Perfect 10

Ballantine Books
ISBN-10: 059312958X
ISBN-13: 978-0593129586
November 3, 2020
Historical Christmas Fiction

England, 1872, Victorian Era

Celia Hooper, who is just over forty, married only a year ago. Her husband is John Hooper, a detective with the Thames River Police. They live a modest lifestyle, but they married for love.

Celia goes to church regularly and likes the Reverend Arthur Roberson, who preaches forgiveness. She does not like church member Seth Marlowe, who is Roberson’s brother-in-law. Roberson’s wife, who was Marlowe’s sister, died of a serious illness several years ago. Marlowe is very judgmental and unforgiving. He singles Celia out to tell her he is marrying her best friend, Clementine Appleby. Clementine is just over thirty and much younger than her intended husband. Marlowe disapproves of Celia and demands she stop seeing or talking to Clementine. If she doesn’t, he will tell not only Clementine of Celia’s lies in court but also all the church members, which will sully her reputation. She did lie in court, yet the judge forgave her because of the reason behind the lie.

Celia is very disturbed by this marriage announcement. She doesn’t trust Marlow as he defames his previous wife, who committed suicide, and his wayward daughter, who disappeared. Clementine, her charitable and affectionate friend, seems deliriously happy with the engagement. Then Seth accuses Celia of sending him an anonymous, hateful letter. Celia doesn’t know what the letter says, but she guesses it may contain a truth Seth doesn’t want anyone to known. He promises her and John trouble. They will lose everything. He doesn’t understand John Hooper is a detective dedicated to discovering the truth.

Christmas is quickly approaching. Will Celia let Seth ruin her friend Clementine’s future as she suspects he might do? Can Celia convince Reverend Roberson that sometimes a person must become aware of their sins and repent before earning forgiveness? This is a short novel, only 200 pages, so it is a fast read. The story contains some very galvanizing issues still plaguing society, which will rivet the reader’s attention. The characters are fascinating and create an entertaining reading. A CHRISTMAS RESOLUTION is not a Ho, Ho, Ho, Merry Christmas story, but more about what Christmas really means. An appealing and heartfelt Christmas story.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Tall, Duke, and Dangerous -- Megan Frampton

A Hazards of Dukes Novel – Book 2

ISBN-10: 006286744X
ISBN-13: 978-0062867445
ASIN: B0847P4G72
October 27, 2020
Historical Romance

Nash, the Duke of Malvern, is a handsome but gruff and uncommunicative man who gives away few of his feelings. His mother ran away from his father when he was ten-years-old. A mean and abusive man, his father often beat his wife and son. Once his wife left, he only showed his son the despicable and debauched parts of society. Nash is afraid to intermingle with people, afraid to unleash any violence on them, as his father told Nash he took after him in every way. Nash has hunted for his many illegitimate siblings and helped them in their lives. All of his servants are half-siblings (they wanted to do this). He has no intention of marrying until his grandmother, the Duchess of Malvern, visits and tells him he must—she tells him his cousin and heir (who he is unfamiliar with) is just like his father, and to prevent this man from becoming the next duke, he needs to choose a wife so he can produce an heir, but a woman willing to live separate lives.

Ana Maria resides with her cousin Thaddeus, the Duke of Hasford, in far better conditions. Her step-mother, the former Duchess of Hasford, had relegated her to servant status as a scullery maid. Now she is Lady Maria Dutton, and at age twenty-eight, having her first season. She, however, is now determined to do things her own way and make her own decisions. Outside of her brother Sebastian, who was declared illegitimate as told in the first Hazards of Dukes novel, NEVER KISS A DUKE, and her cousin Thaddeus, the only person she knows is Nash. The four of them played together as children. She understands Nash’s clipped words and growls and other non-verbal communications. While he doesn’t seem to want her, she becomes determined to have him.

These two seem fated for each other, yet Nash’s preconceptions about himself and of love make it impossible, but Ana Maria attracts him more than any of the ‘eligibles’ on his grandmother’s potential wife list. Does Nash use violence? Yes, in criminal situations. Is Ana Maria allowed to do whatever she pleases? Her brothers and Nash all know she doesn’t know the dangers of society. Both Nash and Ana Maria are hunted by potential mates for their wealth, causing some fascinating scenes. Two questions came to mind as I read the story. The first is how could Ana Maria’s father, the duke, let his wife treat his daughter so shamefully? The second, how could two dukes live so close as to be neighbors? Yet the emotional and unique situations in TALL, DUKE, AND DANGEROUS are what carry the story and make it a good and interesting read.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Take the Lead -- Shelley Shepard Gray

Dance With Me Series – Book 2
Perfect 10
Blackstone Publishing
ISBN-10: 198265855X
ISBN-13: 978-1982658557
September 8, 2020
Women’s Fiction

Bridgeport, Ohio – the Present

Officer Traci Lucky left Cleveland, where she worked as a police officer, to move to the small town of Bridgeport to spend a year living with two sisters she never knew she had. Her sister Shannon found them through a DNA test. Traci grew up in foster care. While she eventually landed in a good group home, she had many bad experiences in foster care. In Bridgeport, she got a job with the local police force and has now partnered with her sister Shannon’s new husband, Dylan Lange (series book 1 SHALL WE DANCE). Today during a raid on a suspected meth house, Traci finds an emaciated girl and takes her to the local hospital. There, Doctor Matt Rossi learns the girl, Gwen, is pregnant and still under the effects of drugs. Traci believes Gwen is another person who feels abandoned like she once felt. Rossi keeps Gwen in the hospital. His actions and approach to his patient impress Traci, and she feels a strong attraction to him.

Matt (Matteo) Rossi is happy to work in a small town where he gets to know his patients, and it is where his family lives. This makes his life meaningful. While treating Gwen, he can’t help but be attracted to the woman officer who brought his patient in. She is authoritative, independent, and compelling, but also caring, and unlike any woman he has known. With her visits to Gwen bringing her to the hospital daily, he tries to talk to her more frequently. Then his brother makes a demand that allows him to get to know Traci better. His brother Anthony demands his younger brother Matt dance a waltz at his upcoming wedding reception. Matt doesn’t dance, but Traci’s sister teaches dancing, and he knows the perfect partner to ask.

Traci hasn’t shared much of her past life with her new-found sisters. She has come to love them, but she still feels reluctant to disclose her past. She feels the same with Matt once they grow closer. While this causes emotional turmoil in the story, so does Gwen’s situation. Her ex-boyfriend trouble-maker Hunter doesn’t love her or want their baby but feels he owns her and is going to get her back. The story’s themes of family and building protective, loving relationships, even when unexpected events cause turmoil, makes this a captivating read.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Favorites in Reading

This month's topic is about what my favorite book is or books of all time are and my favorite genre. (You can include children’s books or non-fiction or even magazines). I have read a lot since first learning how to read and find it impossible to identify just one story as a supreme favorite. The titles of many books come to mind from ages ago like Boxcar Children, My Friend Flicka, Thunderhead, and Black Beauty. Looking back, maybe my mother loved horses, too. She never talked about them, but why else did she buy My Friend Flicka and Thunderhead? They were her favorites, too, and I still have her copies. (Wish I could go back and ask her now!) Just mentioning them makes want to go and reread them.

The first book I read by myself remains on my favorite list as explained in an earlier post. I think I made a mistake though. I thought Miss Hillman was my teacher, but she was my third-grade teacher and I read On Beyond Zebra by Dr. Seuss (Theodor Suess Geisel) in first-grade (Miss Wilkins? Time changes memory.) It was released in 1955. I think what first attracted me was the zebra on the cover. Zebras are like horses and I was a horse-crazed little girl. The story was also very imaginative in concept, wording, and illustration. 
I continued reading and eventually, probably about sixth or seventh grade, came across Will James' novel Smoky the Cowhorse (yep, another horse theme book) at the Fenton Public Library. At the time I was walking the mile or two there and back at least once a week. I was in love with that mouse-grey horse and cried through the horrible parts of his sad history. The story won the John Newberry Medal in 1927. The Newberry Award is still given for a distinguished contribution to children's literature. James, the author, was a French Canadian artist whose writing covered the American West's cowboy culture, and Smoky the novel, held many of his illustrations. This story has taken a current trend in how horses are treated, not only at rodeos but also at our racetracks. 

When I reached fifteen in the ninth grade I started working after school in a local drugstore. For the previous three years I had worked in my family's pet store selling tropical fish and hampsters, and cleaning tanks, but didn't get paid. At the drugstore, I mostly worked behind the soda counter serving coffee, ice cream treats, and some simple to fix sandwiches. I enjoyed the work, and I was earning some money and guess what? The drug store had a sales rack for paperback books. That bookrack introduced me to romance, both current and historical, and to the genre of fantasy. Soon I was reading another of my all-time favorite novels. Andre Norton's Witch World series mesmerized me. The first volume was written in 1963 but I became familiar with the following stories so I searched and found a copy of the first story.

The drugstore's book rack introduced me to many romance authors, but one of my favorites was Georgette Heyer. She could take a reader back to another time. It showed a judgemental public was not just a modern phenomenon. I remember reading many of the titles but the one that left a lasting impression was  Devil's Cub, which I probably read in tenth grade. The hero loved his horses, too. Devil's Cub was a Georgian era time-frame story written in 1932. Heyer wrote many historical romance stories mostly in the Georgian and Regency eras, but she also wrote mystery thrillers. I mentioned this title before in the charming villains' post, and it is a story I've reread many times. I think Heyer started the trend for Regency romances which still continues today. 

My next favorite was an eleventh-grade reading assignment--Pride and Prejudice, a book written in 1813. At learning the assignment I had severe apprehension about how I could read, or even like, so old a story. I was even assigned to give a presentation on one chapter. For once though, I loved an assigned story so much, it helped me overcome my reluctance to talk before a group. Each student was given a paperback copy, but I wanted a more permanent copy, so I drove to Flint and bought a leather-bound copy at a book store. My daughter has it now. It surprised me several years later that my (male) college instructor for the class masterpieces in English literature talked about this story. He claimed to have read it twenty-seven times. I'm not certain I've read it that many times, not even half of that. I have, however, seen all the TV and movie shows. Some are good renditions, but I get very upset when they change things.

My last listing is the Lymond Chronicles of six novels about the Scot Francis Crawford of Lymond. Another historical novel, but this one is about the era and not so much romance, although there is some. Scottish novelist Dorothy Dunnet also wrote mysteries. This is a wonderful series published between 1961 and 1975.  Again, I found it as a paperback in the drug store. From my drugstore bookrack experience, I had become enamored of all store bookracks, although I kept my habit of haunting libraries, too. 

According to RR Bowker, at least 275 thousand books (all genres, both fiction and non-fiction) are published each year. That is an overwhelming number. Who knows what great books I've missed?  

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