Weekend Reads: “A Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”

Hi, everyone. This week, I thought I’d give you all a peek into my research for Pompeii Fire. This is one of the best books I’ve read about life and death in ancient Rome.

A Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum: Murder in Ancient RomeA Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum: Murder in Ancient Rome by Emma Southon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I didn’t think I would laugh so hard while reading a book about gruesome murders, but I did.

Author Emma Southon’s clever turns of phrase throughout the book help provide some relief from the absolutely horrific Roman way of death across history. Looking at everything from poisonings to crucifixions in disturbing detail, Southon shows us the various ways in which murder or homicide (the terms are not interchangeable) might or might not have been legal in the ancient empire.

It’s obvious that the author has done plenty of homework; there is a lengthy *partial* bibliography in the back. It’s so extensive that I can only imagine what might have been left out. Southon has used both primary and secondary sources to make sure her facts are right, not only based on what one contemporary might have said, but for verifications from other correspondents as well.

And here’s the thing: you will learn a ton of stuff about Roman law, social mores, and daily life by reading this book. This is is a warts-and-all examination of the Roman judicial system, the imperial government, and who was deemed worth of justice under the law (hint: not everyone). I learned things from this book that I had never come across in a year-long study of ancient Rome as I did research for a novel set in that time period.

Highly recommended … and not just for the laughs.

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Weekend Reads: “Nala’s World”

Nala's World: One Man, His Rescue Cat, and a Bike Ride around the GlobeNala’s World: One Man, His Rescue Cat, and a Bike Ride around the Globe by Dean Nicholson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was utterly charming.

There, I said it.

We meet Dean and his buddy on their planned bicycle trip around the world. The two part company at one point, and Dean goes on his way. While in Bosnia, he finds a tiny kitten near the road. He can’t bear to leave her behind, and so he tucks her into his jacket and proceeds.

Before long, the idea of being without little Nala is just not on. He makes a basket for her on the front of his bike, and the two proceed on their adventures. Along the way, Dean starts sharing photos on Instagram … and then the folks at The Dodo arrange to do a little video about them. Dean doesn’t figure anyone will watch it, but soon the two are internet-famous.

Nala is the star of the show; people recognize the cat before they recognize Dean … and this often leads to some serendipitous experiences — especially as Hungary locks down due to COVID just as Dean and Nala are in Budapest (no real spoiler here, friends).

Along the way, Dean realizes he can use his fame to help raise funds for small rescue organizations in underprivileged parts of the world — and he does just that, many times over. There is a whole lot of pay it forward *and* back about his generosity, which I loved.

Of course, I’m also an animal lover … so seeing how much Dean was willing to go through for Nala was heart-warming.

Highly recommended.

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Weekend Reads: “The Ride of a Lifetime”

The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney CompanyThe Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Robert Iger
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s no secret that I’m a Disneyphile. I also enjoy reading leadership and business books, so it’s not surprising that this book lands alongside Dream It! Do It! (The People, The Places, The Projects): My Half-Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdoms, Creating Magic, and several others.

Bob Iger’s book is part memoir, part leadership manual … and all well worth the read. While some of the business advice is common sense (surround yourself with people who are better at some things than you are), other pieces were things that honestly had not previously occurred to me, like “if it doesn’t feel right to you, it isn’t right for you.”

Iger’s focus on integrity across all areas of business rang true for me as well. Delivering bad news frankly and compassionately rather than beating around the bush, for example, is something he had to do more than once and at all levels of his lengthy career.

I thought this was an enjoyable read, and one that I will doubtless turn back to for a refresher over time.

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Weekend Reads: “The Tubman Train”

The Tubman Train (Underground Railroad Book 3)The Tubman Train by Doug Peterson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It seemed particularly fitting that I finished reading this book on the International Day of The Woman.

I doubt that there’s anyone in the United States who has never heard of Harriet Tubman. She was an illiterate escaped slave, who in turn rescued more than 70 of her fellow slaves from bondage and into freedom.

This novel starts with her at approximately age 7 and carries on through about age 80. We see some of the better-documented incidents of her life, such as her narcolepsy, as well as some based solely in legend. The author has a note at the end about which incidents were elaborated upon for story-telling purposes, which were absolutely real, and which were made up entirely.

The author also includes a brief bibliography at the end for those who may be interested in learning more.

In any event, this is a well-executed piece of historical fiction about a woman of color who is deserving of hero status. Highly recommended.

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Weekend Reads: “The Unusual Second Life of Thomas Weaver”

The Unusual Second Life of Thomas Weaver (Middle Falls Time Travel, #1)The Unusual Second Life of Thomas Weaver by Shawn Inmon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thomas Weaver is a failure. He’s 54 years old, divorced, an alcoholic, and has just been fired from the worst job he’s ever had. On top of it all, he lives with his elderly mother. He’s plagued by guilt from a car accident that took the life of his older brother when they were in high school.

So, one night he decides he can’t take it anymore. He pens a suicide note, swallows a fistful of pills … and wakes up inside his 16-year-old body. He knows things he didn’t know then, of course, and goes about trying to do things differently so that he can set things right.

Of course, few things go to plan … but he’s still got that second chance.

Author Shawn Inmon has created a fictional Oregon town, Middle Falls, that reminds me of the one in which I grew up. The jocks are the most important people in high school, and it’s socially acceptable to pick on the weird girl. The characters are believable … even in an unbelievable situation.

I finished this book in a single day; I literally did not want to put it down. There are several more books in this series, and I plan to read all of them. Highly recommended.

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