Dictator

Dictator (Cicero, #3)Dictator by Robert Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this third volume on the life of Cicero, we finally get to see Cicero the philosopher and the writer. Exiled from Rome, he retires from politics and turns to the work that he is perhaps best known for. Seen through the eyes of his former slave and now secretary, Tiro, this is one man’s candid assessment, warts and all, of Cicero’s great accomplishments and his great failures. Because politics takes more of a back seat, at least in the first half of the book, we see a bit more of Cicero’s family, and I think a little more of Tiro as well. From afar, we see the rise and fall of Julius Caesar, and the chaos and violence following his assassination that calls a reluctant Cicero back to Rome. Ultimately, the aging statesman cannot compete with the greed and militarism of his younger compatriots. It’s tempting to draw parallels with current politics and that is not a comforting thought. The quest of right versus might is as old as mankind, along with the desire to both live well and die well.

Audiobook read by David Rintoul

Description: At the age of forty-eight, Cicero—the greatest orator of his time—is in exile, his power sacrificed on the altar of his principles. The only way to return to Rome is to pledge his support to a charismatic and dangerous enemy: Julius Caesar. Harnessing his political cunning, unrivalled intellect, and the sheer brilliance of his words, Cicero fights his way back to prominence. Yet no public figure is completely safeguarded against the unscrupulous ambition of others. Riveting and tumultuous, Dictator encompasses the most epic events in ancient history, including the collapse of the Roman Republic, the murder of Pompey, and the assassination of Caesar. But its central question is a timeless one: how to keep political freedom unsullied by personal gain, vested interests, and the corrosive effects of ceaseless foreign wars. In Robert Harris’s indelible portrait, Cicero is a deeply fascinating hero for his own time and for ours.

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Conspirata

Conspirata: A Novel of Ancient RomeConspirata: A Novel of Ancient Rome by Robert Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although it has been almost two years since I read the first book in this trilogy about the life of Cicero, I was quickly reminded of the compelling way Robert Harris writes, which sucks you right into the time and place. At the same time it feels more contemporary than historical. Perhaps that is because in many ways our country and our politics has more in common with ancient Rome than with the medieval kings and queens of Europe. We left off in the previous book just as Cicero has achieved the rank of consul, and this one covers the five-year period ending with Cicero’s exile in 59 BC. [The title of the British edition of Conspirata is “Lustrum,” which is the Latin term for a 5-year time period.] It is not necessary to have read the first book. I think each of these could stand alone.

More tightly plotted than Imperium, this book centers around the conspiracy of Catalina. While initially successful at stopping it, and executing 5 of the conspirators, Cicero’s actions will eventually cause his own downfall. We also witness a deepening rift between Cicero and Julius Caesar. Told from the point of view of Cicero’s secretary, we get to see the heroism of his dedication to the Republic, but also a man not immune to hubris and greed. I felt this got a bit muddled in the middle, and I got a little tired of all politics all the time (would love to have seen more of Cicero’s private life – his wife and children – his writing, etc.) but I am continuing on with book number 3.

Narrated once again by Simon Jones.

Description: Elected by the public, yet hated by the patricians and populists, Marcus Cicero prepares for his inauguration as consul of Rome. However, the grisly murder of a boy overshadows his induction and ignites fear throughout a city already plagued by crime and civil unrest. To add to Cicero’s worries, he hears rumors of an attack on his life by the hands of young Roman senator Gaius Julius Caesar.

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The Reincarnationist

The Reincarnationist (Reincarnationist, #1)The Reincarnationist by M.J. Rose

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

WARNING: This review contains spoilers!

I REALLY wanted to like this book. With a topic of reincarnation I thought it would be right up my alley. I rate it a high 2. It was okay, but with some serious flaws. The author had a great concept, but the plot had serious holes, too many characters and characters in disguise to keep straight, and no real ending. Lots of loose threads and unanswered questions. As for suspense, there was too much switching of time, place, and point of view to build any tension. The main character, Josh, is just as clueless at the end of the book as he was at the beginning. The author desperately wants us to believe in reincarnation, but even her main character does not grow or learn anything from his experience. The best part of the book was the portrayal of ancient Rome and the Vestal Virgins. But who is Sabina? We never find out. Every other character seems to have a modern incarnation, but apparently not Sabina. The twist at the end makes no sense. And it just ends. There is no resolution of karma. In my experience, memories of past lives don’t just come out of the blue unless there is a reason. We have agreed to have that experience as part of our spiritual growth, to resolve karma, to heal self-karma, or to validate our connections with people we have known in the past. None of that happens here. It seems to me the author is like Malachai – desperate to have that experience for herself, but with no idea what it really means. The “Memory Stones” was so gimicky. I wish the author had stuck with historical facts. If someone can tell me the series gets better, I might try another one.

Book Description: A bomb in Rome, a flash of bluish-white, and photojournalist Josh Ryder’s world explodes. As Josh recovers, thoughts that have the emotion, the intensity, the intimacy of memories invade him. But they are not his. They are ancient…and violent with an urgency he cannot ignore—pulling him to save Sabina…and the treasures she protects. But who is Sabina? Desperate for answers, Josh turns to the Phoenix Foundation—a research facility that scientifically documents past-life experiences. He is led to an archaeological dig and to Professor Gabriella Chase, who has discovered an ancient, powerful secret that threatens to merge the past with the present.
Here, the dead call out to the living, and murders of the past become murders of the present.