Review: Hannibal: Enemy of Rome

Hannibal: Enemy of RomeHannibal: Enemy of Rome by Ben Kane
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The time taken to ‘read’ this book shouldn’t be taken as a sign of disinterest. The reality is that most of my ‘reading’ of audio books takes place when I am in my car – something that has been sorely lacking for the last couple of months during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic event.

The story of this book, set in the lead up to and during the historic journey of Hannibal across the Alps into northern Italy, takes place in a period of ancient Roman history with which I not overly familiar. It was interesting, therefore, to hear the story of two young men – one Roman, one Carthaginian – and their families as it is impacted by the ongoing hostilities that exist between their two City-States. Bound together by a developing friendship, the internal struggles between them are complex and, alas, seem destined to tragedy.

As with his other novels, Ben Kane has woven together an engaging narrative with an historical backstory to provide the ‘reader’ with a tale that captures the attention (even if it took me longer than expected to complete it!). The voicing of this novel by Michael Praed makes only positive contributions to the enjoyment of this tome, his nuance of tone and each individual character being masterful and enjoyable.

A wonderful ‘read’, and one I’d recommend to any student of ancient Roman history.

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Review: Scandal Takes a Holiday

Scandal Takes a Holiday (Marcus Didius Falco, #16)Scandal Takes a Holiday by Lindsey Davis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was another enjoyable read in the ongoing and unfolding adventures of our hero Marcus Didius Falco, his family, and the wider group of regulars who, by now, are well known to the reader.

The opportunity to visit Ostia while searching for a missing ‘journalist’ sees Falco pack his household and head down for a holiday as well. It was going to be an easy assignment, and the opportunity was just too good to miss. And then the trouble starts…

Stumbling across local intrigue, Falco is drawn into more than he bargained for. There is kidnapping, there is murder, there is graft and corruption, and there is foreigners with shady pasts. Falco is almost at home, but his doggedness – along with some help from family and friends – eventually unravels the various threads to reveal not only what was truly happening in Ostia, but also the surprise identity of who was behind it all.

Lindsey Davis is rapidly proving to be a favourite author. Her grasp of her characters, by now well developed and loved, along with the historic setting in which Falco’s adventures are set, are masterful and engaging. Reading these novels are not a burden; it is like delving into the story of the extended family. I’ve already started the next edition…

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Homilies: 5th Sunday of Easter, Year A

Bishop Bill’s homily for the 5th Sunday of Easter (Year A) as preached during the live-streamed 9.30 am Mass from an all-but-empty Sacred Heart Cathedral, Hamilton.

The readings proclaimed were Acts 6:1-7; 1 Peter 2:4-9; John 14:1-12.

“As Christians we do not have to struggle with an ‘idea’ of God. We have ‘seen’ God, as our Scriptures remind us. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and through Jesus Christ we know God, not just in thought but in reality. As Christians, as Catholics, we cannot talk about God except by talking about Jesus.”

Review: The Holy Spirit: Setting the World on Fire

The Holy Spirit: Setting the World on FireThe Holy Spirit: Setting the World on Fire by Richard Lennan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Even though responding to the summons of the Holy Spirit opens a pathway to a deeper engagement with God and a richer appreciation of God’s presence in the world, our response to the Spirit is often fraught with ambiguity. Such ambiguity arises from the fact that so much of human inclination is given to reducing the Spirit to a mere support for our own desires and goals, on a personal and social/collective level. In other words, we can want to respond to the Spirit, while also wanting to guarantee that the Spirit does not take us beyond the limits of our own designs.

These words from the Epilogue of The Holy Spirit: Setting the World on Fire beautifully encapsulates the significance of what is contained between the covers of this book. The movement of the Spirit is given less credence – and therefore less intellectual consideration – in most of the Western forms of Christianity, and as such the Third Person of the Divine Trinity is often overlooked as people attempt to understand the dynamics of the Christian life.

For Australian Catholics in particular, who are preparing for a national Plenary Council as soon as the current COVID-19 pandemic event resolves itself, a greater and deeper understanding of the place and significance of the Holy Spirit would not go astray. Attempting to discern God’s intention for the Australian Church will require not only consultation and conversation, but also a profound understanding of the movement of the Holy Spirit in and around those people who are constituted as the Church.

A collection of essays on a range of topics, each individually coherent yet wonderfully curated as a collection, this book provides the insights of scholars in an accessible form to all readers. It provides food for thought, reflection, and, dare I say it, prayer for those who dare to pick it up and open the front cover. For that reason alone, although published in 2017 this book is all but a ‘must read’ for the Australian Church and, particularly, those who will be delegates to the sessions of the Plenary Council.

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Review: The Accusers

The Accusers (Marcus Didius Falco, #15)The Accusers by Lindsey Davis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There was murder and intrigue a plenty in this volume of the unfolding Marcus Didius Falco Mysteries series, but the location for the revelation of the mystery was not focused on the streets of Rome but the law courts of the Basilica Julia.

Drawn into the sensationalism of corruption and disgrace faced by a prominent Roman senatorial family, Falco and Associates find themselves partnering with a lawyer – who proves to be less than reliable – to defending one member of the family charged with the murder of the patriarch, and forced to first lay and then withdraw charges against another member of the same family. Their attempts to both defend and prosecute are hampered by family members of all sorts distorting the truth and insisting on hiding of a grave family secrets.

Unable to unearth the truth, Falco and Associates face financial ruin, and it is only through the quick thinking of Falco that they avert their own personal disaster while finally learning what really happened.

Another wonderful narrative from Lindsey Davis – unlike her previous editions, but engaging nevertheless – that provides a gripping story and an insight into the Roman legal system.

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