Weekend Reads: “Ariadne”

AriadneAriadne by Jennifer Saint
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This re-telling of the myth of Ariadne kept me reading long past bedtime. “Just one more chapter,” I’d tell myself, and then keep going.

For those unfamiliar with the tale, Ariadne helps Theseus slay the Minotaur — who is her half-brother. She is then seduced by Theseus and abandoned on the isle of Naxos, with Theseus telling everyone that she is dead.

Nobody is perfect in this story, least of all the gods and heroes. Ariadne struggles to find her way through a number of mentally harrowing situations that result from her eventual marriage to the god Dionysus who, for all of his foibles, does try to let her know when she’s about to make monumental mistakes.

I enjoyed the book very much, and one need not be terribly familiar with Greek mythology in order to do the same.

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Weekend Reads: “The Mystery of Mrs. Christie”

The Mystery of Mrs. ChristieThe Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The premise of this novel is rooted in historical fact: in 1926, the newly-famous Agatha Christie disappeared for 11 days. Her car was found near a pond with some belongings in it, and neither her husband nor her daughter has any idea where she might be. Eleven days after going missing, Christie reappears, claiming amnesia, and never gives an explanation.

Author Marie Benedict creates a “whydunnit” tale around these mysterious eleven days, creating a plausible tale of marital discord, a husband jealous of his wife’s newfound success after publishing The Mysterious Affair at Styles and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd while struggling to manage what we would now call PTSD alongside his own middling business efforts, and struggles with social mores of the period and place.

Of course, we as readers know that Christie is going to turn up; she writes a good many more books, after all. But the other thing we see in the book is Benedict’s clever construction of a psychological thriller and period police procedural. I didn’t want to put it down.

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My Year in Books, 2021

Hi, everyone. For the last day of the year, I thought I would share the 113 books I read in 2021. I have spent the last hour or so fighting HTML, and never could figure out how to get the full grid up here.

So, onward and upward. Twenty-five percent of my reading was books by and/or about BIPOC, which is nearly double last year’s rate. I’m pleased with that. My longest book was Steven Saylor’s Roma, coming in at 689 pages. My shortest was Everything I Need to Know I Learned from American Girl, logging only 32 pages. Overall, I read 29,066 pages this year.

You can find all of the titles and covers here.

If I ever figure out what went wrong with my HTML, I’ll update the post accordingly.

Weekend Reads: “Marley’s Ghost”

I went into the Wayback Machine for this week’s review, as I wanted to share something seasonal.

Marley's GhostMarley’s Ghost by Mark Hazard Osmun
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mark Hazard Osmun brings us an imaginative look at the life of Jacob Marley before his appearance in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

This book is not for the faint of heart; there are accurate descriptions of life’s miseries for child laborers, coal miners and the poor in pre-Industrial Revolution England. We see Marley go in turns from being a loving brother to a thief to a gambler … and ultimately to Scrooge’s miserly mentor.

This book is well-researched for period detail and brings us an evocative (if not always compassionate) new look at Marley’s character. Those who enjoy the Dickens tale are sure to like the new look at an unwilling change agent.

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Weekend Reads: “Sex and Sexuality in Ancient Rome”

Hi, everyone. I thought I’d give you a peek inside my Pompeii Fire research with this week’s review. Enjoy!

Sex and Sexuality in Ancient RomeSex and Sexuality in Ancient Rome by L.J. Trafford
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I suspect a lot of people reading this book would be in for a surprise. Many folk think of ancient Rome as an incredibly licentious time and place. And maybe, if you were among the super-wealthy, it could be true (how many tales of what emperors got up to were put about by their political enemies will never be known).

What the Romans excelled at was keeping record of their laws … and that’s why we know that sexual behavior was very much regimented. Who could marry, mess about with, and do what acts with whom was a legal matter rather than a private one …and L.J. Trafford spells it all out.

If you are one who clutches pearls over George Carlin’s “seven words you can’t say on TV,” this may not be the book for you. The translations employed in this book are blunt, to say the least. If you are one who believes words have only the power we give them, it probably won’t bother you much.

We get an excellent look at sexuality in a patriarchal society here, with no punches pulled. Discussions of same-sex relationships occur alongside those of opposite-sex relationships; ancient Romans didn’t have a concept of “homosexual,” but rather one of dominant/submissive … and who was expected to play what role.

The book is well-researched (there’s a lengthy bibliography of primary and secondary sources), and entertaining. Highly recommended for those who wish a better understanding of the time period through the lens of the most personal of relationships.

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