ready for today's reviews? The first two are must reads for fans of ancient Rome, while the third will help those of you who are unhappy in your relationship with your significant other. Let's get started:
Born Gaius Octavius and known to us today as Octavian Augustus, the first emperor of the Romans was called Caesar, from the man who adopted him, by his contemporaries. And that's how Adrian Goldsworthy calls him too throughout his book. It's a name he, according to Marc Anthony, "owns everything to".
August was only 19 when Julius Caesar was murdered, yet he never doubted his right to be his heir. He was ruthless in his pursuit of power, yet when he achieved it, he ruled well and brought peace and stability to an empire that had been ravaged by wars and internal problems. He had absolute power, but never took on the honours and title of emperor, preferring to remain princeps, the first citizen of the republic. And during the last years of his life, he tried hard to create a group of public servants, chosen between his friends and colleagues, that would rule the empire after his death. But when most of them died young, Tiberius remained as the sole heir. Rome had ceased to be a republic.
The book is divided in 5 parts, each one dedicated to a different stage in Augustus' life. But I prefer to divide the book in two parts. The first half tells the story of how Augustus achieved power. It's chiefly a military story so, if like me, you're not really into wars, battles, military strategies, conquests, and this sort of thing, you're gonna find this part of the book quite boring. It's not Goldsworth's fault though. The Romans were military people, and Augustus a military dictator, so there's no way the author could have left anything of it out. At least not without cutting out background information that would make reading harder for those readers who aren't familiar with this time period.
The second half of the book, which focuses on what Augustus did once he became princeps, his family, his interests, and his personality, was much more interesting to me. I felt like I was finally getting to know the real Augustus, what kind of man he really was, what made him tick, and what he believed in. The portrait that emerges is well-balanced. Augustus seemed to become less ruthless as time went on, but he could still be pretty cruel even to those members of his family who disappointed him and that, with their rash and irresponsible behaviour, tainted his prestige. He wasn't faithful to his last wife, yet he genuinely cared for her, and didn't divorce her even when it would have been convenient to do so. He seemed to have believed in the republican ideal and yet didn't hesitate to take on absolute power when convinced that Rome needed someone like him to rule at such a difficult time. He was a man of many contradictions, with both good and bad qualities, difficult to understand for us modern people, but whose personality and reforms are still influencing the world today.
The book is very well-researched. Goldsworth combed through all the ancient texts to unearth any tibdit involving Augustus and then put them all together in this autobiography. He weights the evidence, the facts, and the propaganda, debunking common myths and presenting to the readers what, according to surviving proof, is the most likely truth. Although the writing style is a bit dry at times, especially in the first half the book, this is one of the most, if not the most, complete biography of Augustus ever written. It's a must read for any fan of the emperor and Ancient Rome.
Available at: Amazon
Marcus Mettius risks his life every time he works for Caesar. So, why is he still doing it? No one knows, but I'm glad he does, because his adventures are always fun. The task he is given this time is quite boring yet almost impossible. He has to help Caesar organize the meeting of the Triumvirate at Luca. There are many mundane tasks to plan, such as providing supplies for all the attendees and write the political blurbs for the media, and many petty quarrels to settle. To say that Pompey and Crassus don't get along is a huge understatement. Caesar needs them both as allies, but how can they work together when they can't even talk civilly to each other and take every opportunity to inflict petty and not so petty slights on each other?
We don't really know what happened at this famous meeting, but Johnston's account is both hilarious and plausible. He well captures the mood of the event, the tension and conflicts between the triumvirs and the political situation of the time. All infused with a good dose of humour. Caesar and Marcus Mettius are brilliant as usual, but it's Pompey who stole the show for me in this short story. But you'll have to read it to find a why.
The language used by the characters is anachronistic, but fits the story well. The modern style keeps the story engaging, allowing the reader to better relate to the characters. But the jokes they make and the metaphors they use relate to ancient, and contemporary, events, customs, and expressions. If you're not familiar with them, don't worry. Johnston explains them all at the end of the book. He also explains what really happened and what he made up. Like the other books in the series, Caesar's Lictor is entertaining, fast-paced, and funny. I can't wait for more!
Available at: Amazon
Do you think that understanding how the brain processes attraction, relationships, conflict and sex will take the magic out of romance and your relationship? Think again. It actually has the opposite effect. Drawing from the latest research in neuroscience and her experience in her practice, Dr Ava Cadell provides powerful insights into the strong connection between the brain, the mind, and the body, and shares lots of useful, practical, and fun tips on how to attract and keep the partner of your dreams.
It won't be easy. Making a relationship work is a lot of work. It requires time, patience, commitment. There is no easy formula to improve your relationship, but there are many small things you can do on a regular basis to keep the love alive. For instance, cuddling, touching, and kissing releases oxytocin, the "bonding hormone", while learning to use all five senses during lovemaking can greatly improve your sexual life.
But the book is not just about sex. It's about creating a lasting and meaningful connection with your partner to create an unshakable and fullfilling relationship. So, Cavell explains how our brains are wired, and how figuring out whether our partner is left or right brained, an introvert or an extrovert, can help us understand, and relate to, them better. It stresses the importance of communication and emotional vulnerability in a couple. How respecting and loving ourselves is the first step in creating a successful relationship. It provides tips on how to overcome the many challenges and stresses that couples face during the years. There is even a chapter about how to find a partner when you have a serious illness or, if you already are in a relationship, how to deal with your significant other's illness.
This book is one of the most comprehensive guides available today, and features lots of exercises you can do either alone or with your partner. Most of the tips aren't revolutionary. Some of them are just common sense, but I enjoyed learning how science backed them up. And nope, you won't be reading a boring science manual. Although based on science, NeuroLoveology is written in a straightforward and engaging style that never bores. It should be a mandatory read for any couple. Even if you're in a great relationship, give it a read anyway. You'll probably find a few tips to make it even better.
Available at: Amazon
Have any of these books caught your eye?
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