Tag Archives: Medicus Investigation

Challenge Update, First Quarter 2022

5 Apr

I think quarterly is going to be my new thing. I can actually finish a few books in that time frame (I hope) so there’s something to post about! You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page.

Books finished in January, February, and March:

The Ghosts of Eden Park by Karen Abbott (3/5)
Tabula Rasa by Ruth Downie (3/5)

Unsurprisingly, this was all audio again. I’m slowly starting to get back to print books, but I’m not going to be surprised if it takes me a while.

When Are You Reading? Challenge

2/12
As usual, I’m starting off strong at the beginning of the year. It’s easy to knock out new time periods when you’re only finished with one or two books. This will be a bit challenge this year so I’ll have to focus on it and be very deliberate about my books.

Goodreads Challenge

2/15
I’m already behind, haha. I know 15 is a really low goal compared to where I am normally, but I think it’s reasonable with how much my life has changed. The lack of a work commute also makes this a lot harder. I think I can hit 15, but it’s going to take some work.

41JYZlm4QsLBook of the Quarter

This doesn’t mean a whole lot when there are only two to choose from, but I’ll pick Tabula Rasa by Ruth Downie for this quarter with full recognition that this might be a recency bias. Downie is always good for a laugh and I did laugh my way through this one. It was enjoyable and got me to add the seventh book to my TBR. Speaking of which…

Added to my TBR

39 is a very manageable number! Though higher than last month. I hope I can keep picking away at this.

  • The Puzzler // A.J. Jacobs. I will read almost anything Jacobs writes. He’s a perpetual favorite and I can’t wait to see what else he’s explored.
  • Running with Sherman // Christopher McDougall. I loved McDougall’s other running related book so I’m excited to see what else he can share about running culture.
  • Vita Brevis // Ruth Downie. I’ll be happy to dive into book seven in this series. I’ve not been let down yet.

How are your challenges going? I hope your year is starting off well. If you’re interested in the When Are You Reading? Challenge for 2022, I’m hosting again so you can click here to learn more and let me know if you want in.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Book Review: Tabula Rasa by Ruth Downie (3/5)

4 Apr

This series has been so fun to read and enjoy. I’ve been reading it for probably about a decade now in total, but it’s easy to come back to and enjoy. This book took me longer to read than I would have liked. Life hasn’t given me a lot of audiobook time between Baby and the weather. Spring might actually arrive soon which would make it a lot easier.

41JYZlm4QsLTabula Rasa (Medicus Investigation #6) by Ruth Downie

Other books by Downie reviewed on this blog:

Terra Incognita (Medicus Investigation #2)
Persona Non Grata (Medicus Investigation #3)
Caveat Emptor (Medicus Investigation #4)
Semper Fidelis (Medicus Investigation #5)

Summary from Amazon:

The medicus Ruso and his wife, Tilla, are back in the borderlands of Britannia, where he is tending the builders of Hadrian’s Great Wall. Having been forced to move off their land, the Britons are distinctly on edge and are still smarting from the failure of a recent rebellion that claimed many lives.

The tension grows when Ruso’s recently arrived clerk goes missing and things go from bad to worse when the young son of a local family also vanishes. While struggling to keep the peace between the Britons and the Romans, Ruso and Tilla uncover an intricate deception involving slavery and fur trappers, and it becomes imperative that they solve the mystery of the two disappearances before it’s too late.

This book didn’t grab me in the same way some of the previous books in the series did. However, I think it’s because of how long it took me to get into and finish this book, which I blame more on life circumstances than anything else. Branan’s disappearance was the main focus of the book to me and Candidus seemed like an afterthought for a lot of the book, which I thought was unfair to Albanus. I’m sure there were some clues dropped into the story that I missed because of how infrequently I would pick this one up. Instead, it seemed like there were long stretches that were unimportant to the plot which is why this has been my lowest rating of the series.

I love Downie’s characters. Ruso and Tilla are a bit ahead of their time, but it comes off as comedic and the other characters are more representative of ancient Britain. The commentary about hierarchies and bureaucracy are always funny. I like the range of characters Downie has included because modern readers are able to connect with Ruso and Tilla while still experiencing those typical of the era.

Ruso is my favorite character in this series. He’s easy to relate to and empathize with. I understand his motivation and share his frustrations. I can understand why he reacts the way he does and his motivations. I think he’s a great character to connect the modern reader to the ancient world.

Tilla is very relatable as well. She gives a good non-military perspective to the story and she’s very logical and intelligent. I like seeing her work as a midwife and the ways she’s able to help Ruso and connect the Romans and Britons together. I think she exists well between cultures and it reminds me of times I studied abroad and felt not quite at home.

ruthdownie-2014-cropped1

Ruth Downie Image via the author’s website

I thought Tilla’s relationship with the locals was the most interesting part of the book. She is very much an outsider with both groups, not being accepted because she’s ‘one of the others’ on both sides. I liked how she was able to develop a relationship with them and how it grew into something much more.

I felt the middle of the book dragged. All of the searching for Branan seemed a bit much with the way the book resolved. I thought the search for Candidus was pushed aside a bit too much. The book seemed to lack some focus even though it was full of fun characters.

Simon Vance does an amazing job narrating these books. I hope the next two are also in his voice because it’s such a joy to listen to him. His voices for women are not too distracting and he has a good range of inflections and tones for the men in the story. He’s really a joy to listen to.

The title refers to a Blank Slate. I think it’s referring to how Tilla and Ruso have a very new page now that they’re headed to Rome for the next book. I’m not sure how much the events of this book contributed to that, but I am excited to see what happens to them next.

Writer’s Takeaway: I’m not sure how necessary a lot of the character development in this book will be in the overall series. Since the characters are now leaving Britannia, the side characters we’ve come to know and love might be distant memories. As I’ve said, I didn’t really like the plot on this one but did enjoy the character development. I just wonder how necessary it all was.

An entertaining and enjoyable book, but not the strongest in the series. Three out of Five Stars

This book fulfilled the ‘Pre 1300’ time period for my 2022 When Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Related Post:
Tabula Rasa | S.J.A. Turney’s Books & More

Challenge Update, June 2020

2 Jul

This month wasn’t a fruitful as last month, but I’m still happy with it! I’ve been trying to bike outside more so that’s less listening time. I’ve also started watching Netflix while I ride, so I really should say that time for listening is gone. Oh well. You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page.

Books finished in June:

It’s All Relative // A.J. Jacobs (4/5)
The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits // Emma Donoghue (3/5)
Stories of Elders // Veronica Kirin (4/5)
Fiction Writer’s Workshop // Josip Novakovich (3/5)
Semper Fidelis // Ruth Downie (4/5)
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes // Suzanne Collins (4/5)

And caught up on reviews! Killing it!

When Are You Reading? Challenge

9/12
Without even trying, this was a great month for the challenge! I knocked off the two extremes, Pre-1300 and the Future. Downie’s Ruso novels are always good for the earliest time periods with her Roman Empire setting. Traveling to Panem in the future with Collins knocks that one off, too. I’m feeling good about this challenge without having to do much planning!

Goodreads Challenge

35/55
Nine ahead! This is so crazy to me. I don’t think I’ve ever been this far ahead in my Goodreads challenge. Maybe I need to start a George R.R. Martin book to slow me down.

Book of the Month

Always a winner with me, this month has to go to Semper Fidelis by Ruth Downie. I love Ruso and Tilla and I’m always looking forward to what they’ll get up to next. I’ve got the sixth book on my TBR now and I don’t know what I’ll do with myself when I catch up.

Added to my TBR

So I’ve gone up, I’m at 47 now. It’s only one higher than last month but I thought I’d be going down with so many books finished. I’ve gotten into a YA audiobook trap as my library has a summer listening program that I’m stocking up on for later.

  • Into White by Randi Pink. The first of my YA audiobooks. I’m going to make an effort to read more about race and challenge any prejudice I might hold. Most of these books were selected for that reason.
  • Like No Other by Una LaMarche. Same as above. Thank you, libraries!
  • Easy Prey by Catherine Lo. Ditto above.
  • Mexican Whiteboy by Matt de la Pena. Rounding it out. This summer program has stocked me up!
  • Tabula Rasa by Ruth Downie. The next in the series. I’m excited to keep this one going!
  • The Book Women of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson. This is my next book club selection so I expect to start this soon.

Personal Challenge

I’m gearing up again to track personal goals here. This is a great way to keep me accountable and to tell you about me outside the wide world of books.

  • Triathlon Age Group National Championships: Not sure what to say here. The race was officially canceled a few weeks ago. I put up a post about it if you want to read my thoughts. I’m a bit bothered by this and don’t like thinking about it so I might remove or change this goal for next month.
  • Submit my novel: Wow, I was so far off base when I wrote my goals for this year. I haven’t touched my manuscript since COVID hit. There have been other priorities. I might look at editing this one as well. Priorities changed a lot and I want to have goals that reflect the new ones.

How are your challenges going so far? I hope you’re off to a good start. If you love historical fiction, give some thought to my challenge for this year, it’s fun!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Book Review: Semper Fidelis (Medicus Investigation #5) by Ruth Downie (4/5)

23 Jun

I’ve always enjoyed this series. I came up on the first one very randomly while browsing at Boarders (yes, that’s how long ago I picked it up) and I’ve been happy to keep reading them on and off since. I’m happy to always find one when I need a pick-me-up.

Cover image via Amazon

Semper Fidelis (Medicus Investigation #5) by Ruth Downie

Other books by Downie reviewed on this blog:

Terra Incognita (Medicus Investigation #2)
Persona Non Grata (Medicus Investigation #3)
Caveat Emptor (Medicus Investigation #4)

Summary from Goodreads;

Back at his post as a doctor in the Twentieth legion in Roman-occupied Britain, Ruso uncovers a new danger even closer to home than the neighboring barbarians. As mysterious injuries, and even deaths, begin to appear in the medical ledgers, it’s clear that all is not well amongst the native recruits to Britannia’s imperial army. Is the much- decorated Centurion Geminus preying on his weaker soldiers? And could this be related to the appearance of Emperor Hadrian? Bound by his sense of duty and ill-advised curiosity, Ruso begins to ask questions nobody wants to hear. Meanwhile his barbarian wife, Tilla, is finding out some of the answers-and marked as a security risk by the very officers Ruso is interrogating. With Hadrian’s visit looming large, the fates of the legion, Tilla, and Ruso himself hang in the balance.

Ruso’s wit has always been enjoyable. It’s one of the things I like most about these books. And Tilla is getting more and more time to narrate. That being said, this one didn’t stand out as much as the past ones had in my mind. Ruso being accused early on took away a lot of the joy that his character often gave. And Tilla’s investigation took away from a lot of the character development she had commanded in recent books. It was just enough out of step for me to enjoy the book a bit less. Also, the reveal of the killers was just subtle enough that I didn’t get it right away and I had to re-listen to the final ten minutes before I understood what had happened.

The characters in these books are always credible to me. The characters do the best they can with the world they’re living in; the dangers of the Roman period, the medicines known to them, and the average intelligence and education of the people. Ruso is a privileged person and he knows this and has always done as much as he can for the others. It’s what makes him admirable and flawed. He’s a wonderful narrator for this series.

Ruso was the standout character in this book to me. Normally, I lean toward Tilla, but her story fell flat to me this time around. Her concerns about fertility didn’t come through and she was more of a helper than anything this time and didn’t give me much to like. Ruso was himself though in a much more perilous situation than normal. He and Tilla, usually a wonderful pair, were separated for a lot of the story and it was hard to see them without their support system. I’m hoping they’ll be more of a pair again in the next book.

I could identify with Ruso at the end, though at a much smaller scale. This is a bit of a spoiler, so skip ahead to avoid it. The next paragraph will be safe again. I understood why Ruso would confess to a crime he hadn’t done to keep the peace of the empire. I’d be willing to lie about something I hadn’t done to keep peace in my family. I’ll take the fall for something my husband did to save face in front of his family. I’m not sure I’d take it so far as the face death, though.

Ruth Downie
Image via Audible

Sabina was a great side character in this book and Tilla’s interactions with her were fun. Her opinion of the empire and her time in Britain was fun and it was fun to see her feel powerful for once. I can’t imagine the marriage she was in and how that would feel for her, but seeing her play her part was fun. I can see how she garnered such loyalty.

The ending was a bit quick and vague for me. Like I said, I had to re-listen to the final 15 minutes to understand what had happened because I missed it the first time around. It’s not a huge criticism, but it was frustrating, especially listening to the audiobook which makes it much harder to go back and revisit the text.

Simon Vance is an amazing narrator for this series. I hope he’s able to do the whole thing because I’ve come to define his voice and Ruso’s as one. His voices for women aren’t amazing, but I get over it because of the amazing accents he has for Romans and Britons. His inflections for Ruso’s vapid family members always have me giggling.

There is usually something larger than oneself that you would give up everything for. Semper Fidelis is well known in the US as the moto for the US Marines (usually shortened to SemperFi). It carries a lot of weight in US culture. It meant a lot to Ruso, too. He is a cog in the machine, a medicus in an empirical army, but he recognizes the importance of his role and the larger empire he’s representing and holding together. Sometimes, things are bigger than us.

Writer’s Takeaway: Downie’s humor has always been my favorite. Even in a murder mystery, she’s making me smile and laugh. I enjoy the banter between her characters and her balance of serious and humorous characters that keep the book moving with a lighter tone between somber bits. It’s a balance that’s well-executed and I’m not sure it would work in less practiced hands. It could easily be farcical but here it’s wonderful.

A wonderful mystery and a great story in this series. I’ll plan to continue onward. Four out of Five Stars.

This book fulfills the Pre-1300 time period in the When Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Related Posts:
“Semper Fidelis” by Ruth Downie – Always Faithful | Tony’s Book World
Semper Fidelis by Ruth Downie | For winter nights- A bookish blog

Book Review: Caveat Emptor by Ruth Downie (4/5)

12 Dec

I stumbled across this series in college and I’ve been making my way through it faster now that I’ve realized all of the books are available as audiobooks on Hoopla. I really enjoy the characters and writing so expect this to continue for some time!

Cover image via Goodreads

Caveat Emptor (Medicus Investigation #4) by Ruth Downie

Other books by Downie reviewed on this blog:

Terra Incognita (Medicus Investigation #2) 4/5
Persona Non Grata (Medicus Investigation #3) 4/5

Summary from Goodreads:

Ruso and Tilla, now newlyweds, have moved back to Britannia, where Ruso’s old friend and colleague Valens has promised to help him find work. But it isn’t the kind of work he’d had in mind-Ruso is tasked with hunting down a missing tax man named Julius Asper.

Of course, there’s also something else missing: money. And the council of the town of Verulamium is bickering over what’s become of it. Compelled to delve deeper by a threat from his old sparring partner, Metellus, Ruso discovers that the good townsfolk may not be as loyal to Rome as they like to appear.

While Tilla tries to comfort Asper’s wife, an anonymous well-wisher is busy warning the couple to get away from the case before they get hurt. Despite our hero’s best efforts to get himself fired as investigator, he and his bride find themselves trapped at the heart of an increasingly treacherous conspiracy involving theft, forgery, buried treasure, and the legacy of Boudica, the Rebel Queen.

I just love this series and these characters. Tilla is very relatable and Ruso always finds himself in the best situations. The characters that surround them are amazingly diverse and fun and the detail that Downie puts into the setting brings it to life well. I don’t know much about life in Roman Britain and the ways Downie describes it doesn’t exactly make me want to move there, but I might visit.

The supporting characters are a bit unbelievable, a caricature of real people, but man are they funny. Albanus and Valens are less believable than most but they’re some of my favorite characters in the series. Tilla and Ruso are very down-to-earth and much more believable so that the whole store has an overall realism to it even with such jokesters around.

Tilla is my favorite character. She is very smart and independent, to a point where it’s almost detrimental to her. She is fine in her society of native Britains but when she comes into Roman society with Ruso, she’s very out of place. The two of them are very good together, though, and I can’t wait to see where they go throughout the series.

I related to Tilla. Her care for the young baby was very realistic and made her seem very motherly while she’s going through the struggles of trying to conceive. Her mothering instinct kicked in and I can understand how that would happen! I have a few friends with babies and I always want to be holding them and making sure they have everything they need all the time.

Ruth Downie
Image via Audible

Valens and Albanus together made my favorite parts of this book. The humor they infused was great and I got excited each time one of them was mentioned and coming into the storyline. Albanus always seems to find a way to help and Valens a way to intercede. They’re great supporting characters to Ruso and Tilla and good for a bit of fun.

I felt like this book ended before the end and I was a little frustrated until I realized that they were still solving the mystery. It seemed to wrap up so well that I was a bit thrown off about how much time was left but I still liked how it ended. So this is really a minor gripe. I really enjoyed this book.

My audiobook was narrated by Simon Vance and I thought he did an amazing job. He gave great weight to things that were heavy and a light tone to things that are funny. He used a good variety of voices for the characters, differing his pitch enough to keep them straight but not so much that it was distracting.

The underlying plot of Tilla’s infertility was really touching. It spoke to truthfulness in marriage and what love will endure. I thought it was touching how far Tilla was going to try to conceive and showed how much she cared about Ruso. I wonder if they’ll be able to have a baby together and I can’t wait to see how that plays out.

Writer’s Takeaway: Downie does a great job of balancing humorous and serious moments. When something is too silly, you can be almost certain that something unpleasant is coming. I like being able to laugh and be shocked by the book from scene to scene. It’s a great emotional rush going through one of these titles.

A really enjoyable read from a favorite series. Four out of Five stars.

This book fulfills the Pre-1300 time period of the When Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
Caveat Emptor | S.J.A. Turney’s Books & More
Caveat Emptor by Ruth Downie | Mixed Book Bag