Downton Abbey: A Celebration

Downton Abbey - A Celebration: The Official Companion to All Six SeasonsDownton Abbey – A Celebration: The Official Companion to All Six Seasons by Jessica Fellowes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A large, coffee-table book all about Downton Abbey, the show and the characters. Lots and lots of photos throughout, character sketches of all the main characters, organized by location, i.e. the great hall, the bedrooms, the servants’ workrooms, the farms, Downton village, London, etc. Ends with an episode guide to all six seasons, although the sixth season is left rather sketchy, I suppose to avoid major spoilers, since the book came out before the final episode had aired. Not much behind-the-scenes info. All in all, a lovely tribute to this well-loved television series.

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Imperium

Imperium: A Novel of Ancient Rome (Cicero, #1)Imperium: A Novel of Ancient Rome by Robert Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Despite being inundated with politics in this presidential election year, I found this to be a fascinating look at politics in ancient Rome. With impeccable historical research, Harris brings the people and places alive. Particularly interesting is the voice of Tiro, writing the biography of Cicero in his great old age. The first half of the book, which begins with the young Cicero becoming quaestor in 75 BC and his involvement with the corrupt Sicilian governor Verres, was riveting. I loved the description of his gathering evidence, his oratorical skills, persuading witnesses to testify, and finally winning the case in a dramatic court battle against the best lawyer in Rome. It got a bit boring after that, as we follow Cicero’s growing political career as he successively becomes aedile, praetor, and finally consul in 63 BC at the still young age of 43. And he accomplishes this without coming from a political or military family, or the wealth his rich wife won’t let him use, but on the strength of his oratory. It’s not a lot of comfort to realize that after 2000 years we still have not learned the dangers of too much money in politics. It is very uncomfortably familiar!

Description: Tiro, slave and secretary of the brilliant orator and senator Marcus Cicero, tells this tale of one man’s rise from obscurity to the most powerful position in the state. As the second-best lawyer in Rome, Cicero cunningly matches wits with the best when he takes on a case that attacks the amoral aristocracy. His victory catapults him into the realm of Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus. There he develops a consuming passion for this ultimately deadly political theatre. Harris presents a vividly realistic portrait of the quest for the consummate position of power.

Narrated by Simon Jones.

The Rosie Project

The Rosie Project (Don Tillman, #1)The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.75. Although it is never stated, Don is clearly someone with high-functioning Asperger’s syndrome. I can’t speak to how well he may or may not represent a true picture of someone with Asperger’s. Don is just Don. The book doesn’t label him, and I’m not sure how helpful that is in real life any way. I think we have all experienced being socially uncomfortable and can both empathize with and laugh at the humor in Don’s predicament. And he does manage to get himself into some highly amusing situations. Don and Rosie are both quirky, unique characters. This is a light and funny read, and other than that, the plot is completely predictable. Some of the quirkiness began to get a bit tiring by the end, so I’m not sure I want to read the sequel.

Description: Don Tillman is a brilliant, yet socially challenged professor of genetics. Don decides it’s time he found a wife and designs the Wife Project to find his perfect partner: a sixteen-page survey that filters out the drinkers, the smokers and the late arrivers. Rosie Jarman is not a perfect candidate. Although he disqualifies her for the Wife Project, Don is particularly suited to help Rosie on her own quest: identifying her biological father. Suddenly a relationship develops as they collaborate on the Father Project.