#BookReview: Following Caesar by John Keahey

Not A Christmas Book. Admittedly, I saw “Caesar” and the release date and for some reason thought this had… anything at all to do with Christmas. To be clear, it does not. Just in case anyone else was somehow thinking it might. 😉

What we *do* get, however, is actually a rather intriguing tale in its own right, of the author’s adventures in a post-collapse world to try to find the last remaining vestiges of ancient Roman roads in Italy, Greece, Turkey, and surrounding areas. We get a decent amount of history, but to be clear – this is far more travel book (and almost travel log even) than history book. We get tales of espresso and kind strangers and parking woes, and we get tales of finding obscure patches of ancient Roman roadway or bridgeworks or some such often deep in farmer’s fields – and which the author only stumbled upon because he happened to stumble into a local who happened to know what he was looking for. We also get several tales of various “official” sites being closed, some of which the author was able to sneak into anyway either by outright sneaking or by some official or another looking the other way.

Indeed, this was, as I mentioned above, quite an intriguing tale for what it is – just *really* don’t go in here expecting some detailed treatise on the exact engineering of ancient Roman roadways and how at least certain sections of them have managed to last all these centuries. Go in expecting a 2020s era romp through the region at hand… and you’ll probably leave a lot more satisfied here.

The one star deduction comes from having next to no bibliography, despite having so many historical details and references. Instead, the bibliography is simply a “selected reading” and clocks in at less than 4% of the overall text – compared to closer to 20-30% being my expected norm based on reading hundreds of nonfiction advance review copies of books across nearly every discipline these last few years as a book blogger.

Still, I had a great time with this book and learned a lot about a subject the author is clearly passionate about. I felt I was right there with him through many of these adventures and woes, and really… what more do you actually want in a book of this type?

Very much recommended.

This review of Following Caesar by John Keahey was originally written on November 22, 2023.

#BookReview: The Last True Templar by Boyd Morrison and Beth Morrison

Middle Ages Mediterranean Adventure. One of the interesting things for me when reading this book is that David Wood released his book Baal just a couple of weeks before this one came out, and both books are rather similar at the highest of levels – in that both are adventure books touring the Mediterranean Sea region in search of lost treasures. Separated by a few hundred years and thus with completely different specifics as far as character motivations, transportation, weapons used, cultures, etc. And to be clear, with Beth Morrison – an apparently renowned Medieval period scholar – as coauthor here, the actual historical aspects – from the various factions involved to the different cultures of the various Italian cities to even exactly how different things worked and who would have what skillsets, are apparently spot-on, so best as I could tell anyway. Paired with her brother Boyd’s action story sensibilities, once again the two create a spectacular historical fiction tale that anyone interested in any modern action/ adventure tale can also love – and showing those who “only” read historical fiction that modern tales can also be just as great. Overall truly an outstanding book, and I hope these siblings can continue to work together for many more books to come. Very much recommended.

This review of The Last True Templar by Boyd Morrison and Beth Morrison was originally written on September 28, 2023.

#BookReview: Lost At Sea by Patricia Sands

Solid Women’s Fiction, Too Reliant On COVID, Unnecessary Element In Epilogue. This is the penultimate entry in the Sail Away “series” where several authors have come together to craft their own unique stories all centered around cruising, with each taking a different bent to it. The cruise Sands uses here is more of a luxury yacht / WindStar type ship sailing the Mediterranean, and the cruising elements here are absolutely breathtaking – particularly for anyone who is even remotely familiar (even from other pop culture sources/ YouTube) with the waters and coasts of the region, from Spain to France to Italy.

Something like a solid 70% of this tale is more women’s fiction based, with a woman trying to rediscover her passion after years of COVID burnout, and through this section, it absolutely works as a women’s fiction tale. The star deduction is because it *is* so heavily focused on COVID and related topics, and any such talk for me is an automatic star deduction because I DO NOT WANT TO READ ABOUT COVID. (This noted, it *is* in the description that this will be discussed to some extent or another, but in my defense here… I pre-ordered this entire series months before publication, just on the strength of the authors and my love of cruising generally.)

The romance here, such as it is, feels a bit tacked on and rushed, even in a shorter sub-200 page novel/ longer novella. It works within the story being told to that point, just don’t expect the entire tale here to be the romance. 🙂 Note that no other element of this tale feels so rushed as this particular element.

And the epilogue. It works. It is what one would expect from a women’s fiction/ romance. But why oh why does seemingly every romance author out there (not *all* of them, but *many*) feel the need to tack in a baby/ pregnancy in these epilogues? Completely unnecessary, and leaves a bitter aftertaste to the tale for those who are childfree (such as myself) or childless (others I know). Yes, there is a difference between the two – childfree largely are happy not having children, childless want them and don’t have them. (A touch of a simplification, but one that works for purposes of *brief* explanation.) Something to look at for authors who may not be aware that these particular groups exist – and thus the inclusion of the pregnancy here in the epilogue wasn’t star-deduction worthy so much as discussion-within-the-review worthy.

Still, overall this book really was quite good, and a solid entry into a fun series. Very much recommended.

This review of Lost At Sea by Patricia Sands was originally written on February 24, 2023.

#BlogTour: The Italian Daughter by Soraya M Lane

For this blog tour we’re looking at a tale where the author can *finally* combine “both halves” of who she is as a storyteller. For this blog tour we’re looking at The Italian Daughter by Soraya M Lane.

Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:

Slight Departure From Lane’s Typical Approach, Same Great Storytelling. I think this may be the first dual timeline book I’ve encountered from Lane, who normally writes historical fiction – mostly WWII – under this name. Here, we get a WWII story… but it serves to fill in the holes of the current day mystery, which is the other timeline. This is potentially an excellent starter that does well to both set up a series *and* combine “both” sides of Lane’s storytelling – she also writes actual romance stories as her name without the “M” middle initial, and the romance/ women’s fiction element here is particularly strong in *both* timelines. Which arguably makes this Lane’s strongest book to date, as she is finally able to combine her components into one full “self”. Truly an outstanding work, and very much recommended.

After the jump, the “publisher details”, including book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: The Italian Daughter by Soraya M Lane”

#BlogTour: The Last Of The Seven by Steven Hartov

For this blog tour we’re looking at a WWII action tale built more for guys, without the emotional impact of similar works in women’s fiction. For this blog tour we’re looking at The Last Of The Seven by Steven Hartov.

Here’s what I had to say about it on Goodreads:

Slow Start Builds To Action-Packed Finish. This book is one that starts with an intriguing mystery – a man shows up at a British post in the northern Africa desert during the Africa Campaign of WWII wearing a German uniform and claiming to be British – and builds a bit slowly and at times seemingly disjointedly – random flashbacks to this soldier’s memories from Jewish persecutions in Berlin – to a bit of a romance middle and then an action packed final mission reminiscent of most any WWII movie. Overall a solid war tale for guys, with a lot of the emotional punch of women’s fiction WWII historical fiction largely removed in favor of showing people actively being blown apart or shredded by machine gun fire. Recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher’s details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
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#BlogTour: The Girl With The Scarlet Ribbon by Suzanne Goldring

For this blog tour we’re looking at a moving portrait of a loving daughter trying to understand her tortured artist father… and a protective sister trying to prevent her artist brother from becoming too haunted by the war they are living through. For this blog tour we’re looking at The Girl With The Scarlet Ribbon by Suzanne Goldring.

Moving Portrait Of Tortured Artist And Loving Daughter. This is an interesting dual timeline historical, one in which a man is at the center of both timelines… and yet his own perspective is never once actually included in the narrative. And yet despite this, the book does *not* come across as misandristic at all, as the two perspectives we *do* get – the man’s older sister in WWII Florence and his daughter in 2019 – are both seeking to understand him in their own ways. Thus, this book actually becomes an interesting look at how the experience of war ultimately shapes lives in so many divergent ways. While little of the horrors are shown “on screen”, some are, including a few murders, torture with a cigarette, general abuse, and a rape attempt (that may or may not be successful). Also discussed is how the Jews of the area are rounded up, gang rapes (alluded to but not directly shown), and how a citizenry can live with themselves not stopping either. So truly a lot of horrific stuff – and even after the Allies “liberate” the city, at least a few pages are devoted to the continued deprivations. Truly a well rounded look at a difficult and trying period – and the modern story of a daughter trying to understand the messages her tortured father left behind are solid as well, without having quite the horrific impact of the WWII scenes. Very much recommended.

After the jump, the “publisher details”, including book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: The Girl With The Scarlet Ribbon by Suzanne Goldring”

#BookReview: The House By The Cypress Trees by Elena Mikalsen

Beautiful House. In this comedic romance, Mikalsen does for all of Italy what Under the Tuscan Sun did for just Tuscany. With Rome, Florence, Milan, Naples, and the Amalfi Coast all making appearances in this tale, we get a wide view of the beauty of the land even as we concentrate on a very specific comedy of errors and miscommunications romance between a Brit and an American, both drawn to Italy for dramatically different reasons and yet finding themselves just as drawn to each other. Excellent work, and I’ll be looking forward to more from this author. Very much recommended.

This review of The House By The Cypress Trees by Elena Mikalsen was originally written on September 1, 2019.