Audiobook Review- Roma Sub Rosa Short Stories

A series of short-stories to fill in the life-story gaps of Rome’s most skilled ‘Finder’!

If you’re already a fan of Steven Saylor’s Roma Sub Rosa series, featuring B.C’s most skilled detective – Gordianus the Finder – then you’ll love the short-story collection ‘The House of the Vestals’ and ‘A Gladiator Dies Only Once’!

I first stumbled upon Steven Saylor’s Roma Sub Rosa series over a decade ago, I was probably searching the keyword of ‘Ancient Rome’, and found and read The Venus Throw- the 9th in the Roma Sub Rosa series. And over the subsequent years, I’ve read a further 6 novels from the Roma Sub Rosa series all out of sequence- so naturally I just blamed myself when the life-story of Gordianus seemed jumbled and seemed like I’d missed chunks of his life-story, i.e. the growth of his family and the growth of his assets/wealth. But now I’ve learnt that regardless of the order in which I experienced them, there were always gaps in Gordianus’ tale, and Steven Saylor’s 2 short-stories compilations (written in ’97 and ’05) have been designed to fill in those chronological gaps.

The House of the Vestals (80-72 B.C.)

It is ancient Rome, and Gordianus the Finder has a knack for finding trouble. Known to many as the one man in the ancient world who can both keep a secret and uncover one, Gordianus lays bare some of his most intriguing and compelling adventures. The House of the Vestals collects nine of the award-winning Stories of Gordianus the Finder, filling in some of the gaps between novels and revealing the intrigues in the secret history of Rome. In “Little Caesar And the Pirates”, Gordianus must act as a go-between for kidnappers, but he begins to wonder who is really being held hostage. In “The Alexandrian Cat”, a mischievous girl and a tell-tale sneeze reveal an ingenious plot of murder and thievery. In “The House of the Vestals” blackmail goes horribly wrong, and there is no one to take the blame.

A Gladiator Dies Only Once (77-64 B.C.)

A Gladiator Dies Only Once is the second collection of short stories featuring Gordianus the Finder. Set between the events of his novels Roman Blood and Catilina’s Riddle, these nine stories are previously untold adventures from the early career of Gordianus, when his adopted son, Eco, was still a mute boy, and his wife, Bethesda, was but his slave. Included are “The Consul’s Wife,” which involves a twisted search for truth behind a threatening blind item in the Act Diurna. In “The White Fawn,” Gordianus must deal with a kidnapping and murder during the revolt of Sertorius. “Archimedes’ Tomb” tells the story behind Cicero’s discovery of Archimedes’ tomb. Finally, “If a Cyclops Could vanish in a Blink of an Eye” brings up a perplexing domestic situation in Gordianus’ own home. 

Upon reflection, I think what I like the most about Steven Saylor’s style, and why his Ancient Roman mysteries are such page turners for me, is due largely to Steven Saylor’s ability to paint a vivid and convincing picture of Ancient Rome for his reader – thus transporting you and I back to the B.Cs. His attention to detail is so pedantic that I feel as if I’ve lived through the toga and dagger toting Republic days! By no means are Steven Saylor’s mysteries complex, as half of the short-stories you can guess the end outcome, but it is still a thrill and delight when Gordianus eventually solves the mystery as the reveal is so worth it! And a final mention is to Steven Saylor’s ability to use traditional Latin terms and in their original context in his writing, which both educates and astonishes me when I learn of how the original word was intended and used.

Unfortunately the Roma Sub Rosa series is not available from Audible, the original audiobooks were produced by Blackstone Audio (Ashland, Oregon). However following the above links will hopefully help you to get your hands on a copy, either as a physical paperback book or as a Compact Disc set.

December Festivals and Things to Do!

Can you believe it? The 12 months of 2019 is almost over! Christmas, summer at the beach, and New Year’s Eve awaits us! Here are my top things to see and do for the month of December in Ol’ Sydney Town!

Rosé Bay Wine and Food Festival– Sat 7 Dec

Woollahra Sailing Club, 2 Vickery Avenue, Rose Bay NSW

Summer wines, gourmet food, music, sun and sea! What more can you possibly ask for? Come try some award winning wines, and if the Rosés appeal to your refined pallet, then order a case for your cellar! $42 entry fee pp, wine je te (will be) flowing from 12noon – 6pm.

For more details and to purchase tickets, click HERE!

Carols by the Sea– Wed 11 Dec

Bondi Park, Bondi Beach NSW

Usher in the festive season with carols by the sea! Bondi beach at twilight will be the ideal event for kids and carol lovers alike. This event is FREE! Lay down your rugs from 3.30pm for a 4pm start.

For more information, please click HERE

Woolworths Carols in the Domain– Sat 21 Dec

The Domain, Art Gallery Road, Sydney NSW

Christmas isn’t Christmas without traditions like the Carols in the Domain! You can easily watch it on TV, but you can also easily experience it live as well! 2019’s performers include Vanessa Amorosi, Shannon Noll, Adam Brand, and Lucy Durac! Reserve your patch of grass from 3am, or rock-up fashionably late at 7.15pm cause you’ve got paid reserve seating (starts at $40 pp).

For more information and reserve ticket details, click HERE

Illawarra Hawks V New Zealand Breakers– Sun 22 Dec

Win Entertainment Centre, Wollongong, NSW

A drive down to Wollongong is far, but it’s not as far as a flight to the US to see Lamelo Ball play in the NBA in 2020! Check-out the 18 year old phenom for yourself while he’s still on Aussie soil before he becomes the next Labron James! Don’t you want to be ‘that guy’ who is able to say, “I’ve seen Lamelo Ball ball, before he became an NBA Superstar!”? Tip-off at 3pm!

For more info and tickets, click HERE!

I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas– Mon 23 Dec

Lion Gate Lodge Garden, The Royal Botanic Garden, Mrs Macquaries Road, Sydney NSW

Looking for fun activities for the kiddies during the Summer school holidays? Why not outdoor theatre at the Botanic gardens? Be entertained by Elfis and Elvin the cheeky elves as they make preparations for Santa Claus’ visit to Sydney! Ideal for kids between 3 – 8 years, $14 pp (all children must be accompanied by a ticketed adult) – hedges part for ticket holders at 10.30am.

For more details and for tickets, click HERE!  

Roaring 20s NYE Party– Tues 31 Dec

The Doss House, 79 George Street, the Rocks NSW

Welcome in the New Year 2020 with a 1920s themed New Year Eve party at the historic Doss House underground bar! Not to mention this will be the most affordable NYE party ticket going in the Rocks! Your entry fee will provide you a drink on arrival, 6 hour grazing table and canapés, champers at midnight, access to George Street and Playfair streets for views of the fireworks, and live music! Tickets start from $130 pp. The red velvet rope will be lifted for you from 5.30pm – 2am.

For more details and for tickets, click HERE!  

Grilled Pork in Red Sauce Recipe

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

500g Thin cut pork steaks

3 Tomatoes

1 Red capsicum

1 Tin crushed tomatoes

1 Birdseye chilli

3 Teaspoons soya sauce

Salt & Pepper to taste

Serve with rice and Mozzarella cheese

Directions:

Step 1: Prepare vegetables by dicing capsicum into 1 inch squares; slicing tomatoes into wedges, and chopping chilli into small pieces.

Step 2: In a wok, grill pork steaks until no longer pink, and set aside.

Step 3: Stir fry capsicum and chilli in the wok for 5 mins, then add fresh tomatoes, and continue cooking for 2-3 mins, before adding crushed tinned tomatoes. Allow the tomato mixture to bubble before turning down the heat and adding the soya sauce and seasonings.

Step 4: Slice into thick strips and add pre-grilled pork to the mixture and continue cooking for another 5 mins before taking wok off the heat.

Step 5: Serve over rice, with mozzarella cheese sprinkled on top.

Netflix Recommendations- Rhythm + Flow

You’ve gotta watch-it on Netflix!

N avoida readin’-it on Wikipedia!

To avoida spoiler’s boy-E!

Rhythm +Flow, a Netflix original production (“singing competition”) featuring judges Cardi B, Chance the Rapper, and T.I.! Follow the judges from the Westside to the Eastside, from the Dirty South to the Windy City, in search of the best rappers in the great land of the United States!

Imagine ‘X-Factor’, but minus all the singers and dancers. Imagine ‘The Voice’, but minus all the white dudes. Imagine ‘America’s Got Talent’, but minus all the R N’ B and Gospel artists. And what you left with? Is Rappers! Back to back Rappers! Wall to wall Rappers! Contestant after contestant of Rappers! So if you luv Gangster rap, lyricism, and homies spitting bars? Then you’ve gotta watchit on Netflix!

We start the rap journey with 4 Open mic auditions in LA, NYC, ATL and Chicago. Then the top 30 are flown to LA to take part in 6 rounds of rap  challenges – where the 30 is initially sliced down to 16 through the Cypher round (for you white boys….Cypher is what you call ‘Group work’). Then the 16 is reduced down to 8, after the head to head ‘Rap Battles’. Then 8 becomes 6, after the filming and airing of their own Music Videos. Then 6 is filtered down to 5, after producing their own Samples, their take on a well-known melody. Then a handful become 4, after the collaboration round with today’s hottest R&B artists! And then there were only 4 Rappers remaining in the finale, where the finalists perform LIVE a brand new rap track which they wrote and co-produced in 3 days! All nicely choreographed with pyrotechnics, and judged on their performance and crowd interaction – one deserving winner earns themselves $250K in cold hard cash! Dolla Dolla Bill Y’all!

It’s a modern day TV series classic! 10 episodes of artistry, and you know how they say ‘pressure produces diamonds’? Well, Rhythm + Flow exhibited how Pressure, Hardship, Sacrifice, Talent, and Hard work produces Rap Superstars!

If you wanta checkout Rhythm + Flow for yourself? Click HERE!      

Product Recommendation- Pro-Live Mango Lassi

I’m sure there is a time and place to consume Lassi – the tasty thick yoghurt drink found at most Indian restaurants. Methinks it’s usually consumed as a drink to cool your burning mouth when you’re having a particularly spicy curry? But we’ve taken to drinking it whenever we’re looking for something sweet, and when we want something healthier and less guilt-ridden then with ice creams and other guilty pleasures.

Australian producers Pro-Live stock their Mango Lassies to Costco Australia, known for its bulk purchases, although a 1 Litre bottle of Lassi didn’t seem like such a bulk buy? But I’ve been told, compared to the usual volume in which Lassi is usually sold in, 1L is quite a lot of tasty drinkable yoghurt. But being us, 1L is never enough so we always get 2 bottles when we’re at Costco.

To be honest with you, the taste of Pro-Live Lassi Mango Drink reminds me much of the mango flavoured tubbed yoghurt by Nestle. So it’s a very common, pure taste, which I’m sure appeals to all tastebuds. It’s creamy and smooth (be sure to shake well before pouring), while liquid enough to quench any thirst. And it’s quite filling as well, so if you’re in a rush a 250ml glass of Lassi could easily serve as a light breakfast on the go! For $4.50 Australian dollars for a 1L bottle, it’s much more economical to buy in bulk and consume at home, than to purchase when out. The only philosophical question which is left unanswered, is….. Which came first? The tasty yoghurt drink? Or the popular American TV show which aired from 1954-73? 

If you’re interested to purchase the Pro-Live Mango Lassi drink and not a Costco member, click HERE!

Podcast Recommendations- Audible Original Podcasts

Now your Audible membership gives you more!

In the past I used to laugh when I had a think about the ‘Member benefits’ for Audible subscribers – as they used to say that you have access to the entire audiobook library at a discounted “members’ only” price and you had one free credit to spend each month on books. But in reality, who was actually purchasing a second book per month for the ‘discounted members’ rate’? Aren’t we all just waiting until the new month swings around before we use our next credit on our next audiobook? So in reality Audible membership really meant that you were basically paying $16.95 for a book a month. But not anymore!…

…as your Audible membership now gives you more!!

When thumbing through the Audible app I was surprised to see a heading “Free for Members. Audible Original Podcasts”. Not believing my eyes, I slowly scrolled through the list of titles and I was in disbelief that these podcasts (each a couple hours long) were actually FREE? FREE? But there’s nothing FREE in this world!? And I didn’t know anything about this new introduction as my wife’s email is attached to the account and she receives all the Audible email updates. Yay for her! So the first time I decided to give it a go, I made sure I selected a podcast which was upwards of 2 hours, my thought process was: “if I get charged a credit for this, at least I spent it on a longer podcast.” And hurray! It was for FREE afterall! And in the past weeks I’ve listened to the following titles:

A Grown Up Guide to Dinosaurs

Narrator: Ben Garrod; Length: 2 hrs, 50 mins; Episodes: 6.

And the scriptwriters for this pod were correct! As kids, we were fascinated by dinosaurs, but as we grew up, we kind of got over them, like how we grew out of cartoons and grew out of our toys. But there is something fascinating about digging deeper into a topic which you loved as a kid, like dinosaurs, but now seeing them in a whole new light as a fully knowing, fully aware adult. This podcast debunks some lies we’ve been fed over the years – like how the Velociraptor is probably more like a 2 foot chicken, than an 8 foot pack hunter (like it was depicted in Jurassic Park); having it explained in unequivocal terms what ultimately caused the extinction of the dinosaurs – by pinpointing the exact time and place in which it occurred, through core samples; and how birds, yes birds which we see in our backyards all the time, are more likely to be descendants of dinosaurs than say a lizard – fossils have shown that perhaps dinosaurs were feathered creatures much like birds.

If you want to learn these interesting revelations for yourself, click HERE to start listening!  

Artificial Intelligence

Narrator: Geoff White; Length: 2 hrs, 10 mins; Episodes: 6.

If you’re lazy like me and love using your Smart assistants like Siri and Google Assistant, then you’ll probably find this podcast very interesting as well! Geoff White, a Technology journalist for the BBC, takes you through the history of AI, what it means for us in terms of robots taking over our jobs, and he explores the limitations or the limitless bounds of artificial learning and creativity. Well, look on the bright side, at least we still have another 10 years of being the dominant race! Before our creation surpasses us as the most intelligent being………?

If you want to check out Artificial Intelligence – Friend or Foe? For yourself! Click HERE!

The Dark Web

Narrator: Geoff White; Length: 4 hrs, 10 mins; Episodes: 10

And if you’re like me and you’ve heard all sorts of tech pods referring to the Dark Web, but you don’t really know what it really is – then take this dark path to enlightenment! Or is it a path into the murky shadows of the underworld? After the 4 hour duration of the pod, you’ll be more aware, but sometimes being more aware isn’t a good thing, as you’ll learn that the world around us is a pretty dark place after all; where people indulge in whatever they feel like, when they feel safe being behind their invisibility cloak on the web. Learn exactly what is the dark web, how to access it’s dark portals, learn what is and what isn’t going on in this shadowy enclave of the Internet, and learn a little about yourself as well – now that you know how to access the super-human ability of invisibility – how would you use your superpowers of anonymity?

To follow this spiralling staircase into the depths of the dark web, click HERE! If you dare. Moohhaha!

End comment, if you’re thinking…… I already have access to enough free podcasts, and I already have too much stuff to listen to! Therefore I don’t need Audible podcasts….. But Audible Original Podcasts are truly next level stuff! The level of research, production, and post-production is on par with a TV documentary series – leaving in its dust the regular run-of-the-mill podcasts with their meager budgets. So if you want to be entertained/educated at a level usually reserved for TV documentaries, while having the freedom to listen to them while on the train or driving to work? Try out the Audible Original Podcasts! And the great thing is that they’re one-off discrete series, so you can binge and then move on, not ever feeling overwhelmed by over-subscribing to too many podcasts!  And aside from documentary style pods, Audible Original Podcasts have live recordings of stand-up comedy, and dramatized fictional stories! So heaps and heaps of stuff to feast on!