Audiobooks · Books

On the Reading Table: Marcus Didius Falco

I love a book series that is so compelling, captures so much interest, evolves into that rare realm titled “Can’t Put It Down!” that I literally can’t stop. Lucky for me, I discovered Falco thanks to Audible.com

I recently found myself stuck in a rut while waiting for other series to update via newer additions. Thanks to Audible, I have access to a very large and varied collection of books as part of their Audible Plus offering. What started as a test run with book one evolved into a marathon download and listen to each book in turn – some of the books listened to/read multiple times before moving on.

Make no mistake, I’ve inhaled this series.

After finishing the last book in the series, ‘Nemesis’, I can honestly say that this particular odyssey was worth every single minute. Each individual book stands on its own but taken together create a tapestry that is both complicated and cohesive. Davis is an author who is willing and able to connect the dots for both history and crime fiction.

Check out the author’s website: Lindsey Davis. You can also find more by going to Goodreads.com and Amazon.com. You can also check out this entry for a broader overview.

Falco is a first century Roman citizen who is a private investigator. Between his family, his friends, and his clients (Roman Emperor Vespasian, for example), Falco encounters some complicated mysteries and family dynamics that would make any modern protagonist wonder if there was benefit to moving elsewhere and starting a new career.

Personally, I am constantly amazed at how astute Falco can be while being determinedly obtuse when it comes to certain family truths.

Historical novels can often suffer due to the research ability of their author. Some choose to avoid details that could be questionable while others dive in so deep the reader can lose track of the story altogether. Davis has provided a balanced combination of information about the Roman Empire with enough nuts and bolts operation of the private detective. We aren’t stuck in one location throughout the series, either. Starting in Britiania we visit a wide array of locations within the empire, but it is Rome itself that shines in the books. Falco loves Rome. It is his home city and he knows it like the back of his hand.

While the books themselves are true gems, don’t overlook the Official Companion. There Lindsey has gathered maps of the city and the empire along with information on all the main characters without overstepping and giving spoilers.

Speaking of spoilers…

The series has several story arcs. Some carry through several books, some carry through the entire series. Everyone evolves throughout the series, some in unexpected ways.

Once this series is completed, I plan on continuing with the second series set in Rome. It will be a welcome addition to my Reading Table. 🙂

Audiobooks · Books

From The Reading Table: The Silver Pigs

My latest obsession:

The Silver Pigs by Lindsey Davis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The majority of my reading these days is via Audible.com. There is nothing like being read to. LOL!

That being said, I have been looking for a new book for quite a while, having been stuck in a Sherlock Holmes loop (Stephen Fry reads the entire canon.) or indulging in some mythology. Recently I sat down and started going through the Audible Plus catalog hoping to find something – anything – that caught my interest. And wouldn’t you know who popped up? Falco.

It is a rare treat to find an author who can put the reader/listener right smack in the middle of the world of their story. I would use the term ‘worldbuilding’ in a broad sense because the world in this case is Ancient Rome, a place that many of us have a slight knowledge of. Toss in a captivating story, interesting characters, and a reader (Christian Rodska) who voices the characters perfectly.

Did I enjoy the book? Let’s just say that I have inhaled the first four books in less than a week and I’ve also picked up the Official Companion book. Oh, and Number 5 is waiting for me.

For whatever reason Simon Prebble took over the reader duties from Christian Rodska in book two. I have no complaint with this as I’ve been a Prebble fan for years. It was a touch jarring at first because Mr. Prebble brings a bit more of a posh tone where Mr. Rodska’s interpretation fits the down and out Falco. Overall, I like them both.

If you like a good mystery. If you like interesting characters. If you are a bit of a history buff or if you are just curious about Rome. Check out these books. I wouldn’t be surprised if you discover that, like a certain potato chip, you can’t read just one.



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Audiobooks · Books

From The Reading Table: “Hard Time”

Hard Time by Jodi Taylor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This book has been on my Audible Wishlist for longer than I realized. My bad. I have enjoyed all of the many, many Jodi Taylor books in my library and I seem to be savoring them under the “One Of These Days” banner rather than the “Oh My What A Treat” banner they deserve.

The Weird Team is almost at the end of their training period and has made a name for themselves within the Time Police. Unfortunately, it isn’t one that many would aspire to. No real surprise there.

A semi-chance encounter with an old acquaintance of Luke’s starts them on a path that uncovers secrets, lies, truths, and a lot of evolution not only of individuals but of organizations.

With a touch of St. Mary’s thrown in for good measure. LOL!

I can not state how much I appreciate Ms. Taylor’s way with words and her knack for character and situation. I thought Gabaldon (Outlander) was a Master Wordsmith, but it turns out she is one of a very, very few. Both are astounding in the way they build worlds. It is a joy to behold!

I found myself thinking that it would be interesting to have a visual version of Ms. Taylor’s universe. The movies brought Harry Potter to life in ways that the books couldn’t. I think the same could be applied to St. Mary’s and the Time Police. Being able to actually ‘see’ things would add an interesting layer. I’m not so sure I want someone else’s interpretation of the characters, however.

You can be sure that I’ve put a reminder on my calendar for the release of Book Three and have added the book to my Wishlist over on Audible. I doubt I will wait too long to collect it once it is released so I can embark on Team Weird’s next adventure!



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Save The Date

October 14, 2021 – “Saving Time” A Time Police novel by Jodi Taylor

Books · Movies

Artemis Fowl

I can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that the Artemis Fowl book series, written by Eoin Colfer, is 20 years old. Frankly, it just doesn’t seem possible. And yet…

The books, aimed at a Young Adult audience, brought together mythical creatures and Humans in a way that we hadn’t really seen before. Not, at least, in the same way. Artemis is not your typical youngster. And that is the ultimate understatement.

If you are interested check out Eoin Colfer’s website: https://www.eoincolfer.com/artemis-fowl

I haven’t yet caught up with the later additions to the family saga; the Fowl Twins books, but I’ll be sure to add them to my list.

From Book to Film

I’d like to say I learned a valuable lesson with the Harry Potter books and films. That is, do not – Repeat: DO NOT – expect the film to be as detailed or intricate as the books.

I’m thinking it was around film 5 that the lesson might finally have become ingrained. But I could be in error there.

Lovers of books that are made into movies or TV shows run the not uncommon risk (?) of being disappointed. Why? Simple. Time. There simply is not enough time to take the book word by word and move it into a film medium.

It might sound simple and easy but the end result just can’t justify any part of that exercise. The time and cost to actually produce the filmed product would exceed every expectation and the end result would be a disaster. The first book in the Fowl series is not that long and the resulting film, with the necessary edits, etc., still resulted in a film under two hours. Most audiences won’t want to sit through a longer film

So, do not expect the book to be the film. In fact, one thing that helped me with the Potter films was to not read the book close to the time I watched the film. I gave my brain time to ‘forget’ things so when I watched the film, it was fresh and relatively new.

The Film

First, can I just say how amazing Judi Dench is? I never, ever sit down to watch her work and am not amazed at the end result.

Second, the casting of this film is amazing. I really, really, enjoyed each and every character – the performers brought so much to the table with their efforts.

Third, Kenneth Branagh has shown a level of skill, of deftness of touch, with this film. He kept the target audience (kids) in mind every second of the way, so the audience wasn’t overloaded with graphic monsters, dark and dank settings.

In short, he wasn’t playing to adults with the standard blow things up, excess violence, not to mention graphic gore with the plot secondary to all the special effects. From some of the reviews I’ve read, this seems to have confused folks a lot. <shrug>

Granted, he could have treated us to every second of Artemis searching for the language to unlock the query to find the … … … you get the idea. The film would have gone from under two hours to over three for that alone.

The film actually gives us every piece of information we need to understand what is happening in the story. Yes, a little more information about how certain things do, or don’t, work might have been helpful, Especially if the viewer isn’t a student of myth lore.

Overall, I liked the end result. It was just the right balance of material. It has a beautiful design and the soundtrack is delicious.

Since I am one who might end up nodding off or foraging when a film loses my attention, this was a pleasant change. No pauses. No napping. No foraging.

Final Thoughts

I recommend both the books and the film. I encourage you to remember to leave some space/time between the books and the film, but both are worth your time and attention. Don’t embark with any preconceived ideas, however. Let the story unfold as written.

Enjoy!

Audiobooks · Books

From The Reading Table: Twenty-One Days

Twenty-One Days by Anne Perry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I haven’t read anything from Anne Perry in a very long time. Thanks to a sale over on Audible, I discovered this book and decided to give it a try.

I’m glad I did!

I’m not a fan of cookie-cutter books; they seem a bit lacking when it comes to substance. Perry always provides interesting characters, settings, and situations that provide a lot of food for thought and a mystery that will keep you wondering.

Daniel is 25 and still wet behind the ears and a little unsure of his footing. This is both interesting and a tad annoying.

The client is a pompous [ fill in the blank ] and the first case is relatively straightforward. Or is it?

I found myself thinking I knew the solution, but by the time I got there, I knew I’d been brought along by a master storyteller.

I like Daniel. I like the time period. I like the masterful way Anne Perry asks the questions that make the story exceptional.




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Audiobooks · Books

From The Reading Table: ‘Another Time, Another Place’

Another Time, Another Place by Jodi Taylor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This one snuck up on me. I hadn’t noted the release date in my calendar and when I came upon a notice that the book was out I grabbed it. Needless to say, I have been up all night listening (and I still haven’t finished it).

One thing that continues to amaze me is the way Jodi is able to literally put me in the middle of whatever, wherever, whenever with such apparent ease that I feel like I’ve just joined in the latest expedition. Considering the track record of St. Mary’s, however, that might not be a good idea.

I admit, thanks to reading a review on Audible and being a bit, shall we say, concerned about the potential outcome, I did fast forward to the last chapter and then immediately return to where I left off. As a rule, this is a Major No-No for me. It did not fill in all the blanks or provide all the explanations but it did provide a bit of … relief before the next adventure.

O. M. G.!!!!!

Which, come to think about it, is pretty much the reaction of the reviewer who enticed me to do my fast forward. That, in a nutshell, should tell you a lot.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m heading back to continue the adventure and then start over for that all-important second round (of many) to make sure I caught all the little things that might have been missed. Or not.

Buckle up. It’s a grand adventure!



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Audiobooks · Books

From The Reading Table: Mycroft Holmes

Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I’m always on the lookout for something interesting and different and this audiobook fits the bill.

Well written, well-crafted plot and characters, and a narrator/reader who did justice to all the characters, I thoroughly enjoyed this work – so much so I’ve listened to all in the series multiple times and am hoping for more.

This is an engaging back-story to the Sherlock Holmes canon. Mycroft Holmes introduces a twenty-something Sherlock via his older brother and fills in those blank spots that Conan Doyle originally wrote.

If you are looking for work equal to the original Conan Doyle canon, this is it.



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Audiobooks

Book Review: The Mangle Street Murders

The Mangle Street Murders by M.R.C. Kasasian

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I found this book via Audible.com’s Plus Catalog.

I would never classify this as a ‘cozy’ mystery as neither the characters nor the plot fits into that category. Both March & Grice are complicated characters and each has their own collections of secrets that might eventually be revealed during the course of the series. Grice is particularly antagonistic and off-putting.

While I have been through the book several times, it is frustrating to find a through-thread to deal with the mystery(ies). That Grice’s reaction and response to the twists and turns are predominantly negative and potential fodder for red herrings only adds to the frustration. March comes across as both knowledgeable and a twit. Her “I don’t understand!” quickly got old.

As for the comparison to Holmes and Watson, Holmes was rarely mean-spirited and Watson was never both clueless and wise.

All that being said, it is an interesting work if only to find some sort of resolution to the plot. Will I continue with the series? No idea.



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Audiobooks · Books

On The Reading Table: The Lady Sherlock Books

Book 5: Murder on Cold Street

I found The Lady Sherlock Book series a couple of years ago and was immediately entranced. The series, written by Sherry Thomas, takes Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters and turns them on their sides, inside out and upside down. The result is a collection of stories that are part masterful mystery, part exercise in exquisite language, and part deft storytelling. All written with the same attention to language and detail that Doyle gave us in his stories.

Where Doyle creates main characters with backgrounds that are revealed in an extremely limited manner, Thomas provides us with a coterie of people who are complicated, layered, interesting, and occasionally exasperating. Not to mention often funny*.

If you’ve read here for very long, you know I’ve been on a Holmes / Doyle kick for quite a while. In fact, I strongly recommend Stephen Fry’s audio collection of the entire Doyle canon.

If you enjoy a good mystery and want a story that is very much not a + b = c bland, I suggest you start with Sherry Thomas’ “A Study in Scarlet Women” being sure to buckle up for an adventure (or two) that you won’t soon forget. Be prepared; you will eagerly reach for the next volume in the series and continue through until you’ve inhaled the entire series so far.

Yes, you will want to read this series in order. While each book stands alone, there are a few story arcs that continue not only between books, but across the series.

*Charlotte’s sense of fashion is, um, colorful.

Murder on Cold Street” takes us into one of the most complicated and convoluted of Holmes’ cases. This time the client is Inspector Treadles’ wife, who is desperately searching for help to exonerate her husband who has been found locked in a room with two dead men. The Inspector isn’t talking about what actually happened and the information Holmes (and the reader) is initially given isn’t quite what it seems.

Narrated by Kate Reading, this book is a wonderful excursion into an adventure that is part mystery, part romance, part history, and lots of fun.

I’d love to hear what you think of the books. Please add a comment below.

If you like this post and have found it helpful (we all need recommendations for our reading tables), please click on the “like” button!

Audiobooks · Books

Revisiting Literary Friends

I’ve been a reader for as long as I could read. That would be somewhere in excess of 6 decades. I tend to prefer historical novels and detective stories with some science fiction and fantasy thrown into the mix.

As such, I’ve covered a reasonably decent swath of material at local libraries. One, in particular, I pretty much cleared out. 🙂

Recently I’ve mentioned that I have been listening to a lot (a LOT) of Sherlock Holmes. For some reason, Holmes, who was a favorite when I was much younger, has become a reliable literary companion when I want something to read, but not have to dig too deep in to keep up with the story.

After quite a few <cough> rereads of Holmes, I recently switched back to the Amelia Peabody series. I have several of the books on audio and enjoy the reader immensely. The books are well written, click a lot of the boxes on my “types of books I want to read” list and, overall, are quite an enjoyable experience. You can learn more about them by reading the Amelia Peabody Series Wiki.

Over on my Reading Table, I have the latest Jim Butcher work along with several shorter pieces that may take a while to get to. I keep hoping that the latest installment of Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” work will be published soon – and I know she is at that point in the process where she is closer to the finish line – but…

The one constant of this time is the need for distraction and engagement. I’m grateful to have some old friends to rely on and be able to find new ones to add to the mix.

So, what’s on your reading table?

Footnote: For those who might be confused, I listen to a lot of audio books. As such, I use the terms ‘listen’ and ‘read’ interchangeably.