May 22, 2014

My Home Sweet Rome by Sari Gilbert

I am an armchair traveler.  So I do my traveling through books from people who either live in or have visited all the places I want to go.  Enter Rome.  A city with a lot of history, art, and delicious food, it's definitely a stop for most travelers.  But Gilbert takes it a little further.  She lives in Rome, and has done so for decades, giving her an experience that most have not had.

While in college, Gilbert moved to Rome to continue her schooling and then pursue a career in journalism.  Fond of Rome and the opportunities it offered to her, she stayed and worked for several newspapers and as a freelance journalist.  This offered her the chance to talk to many important people, cover interesting stories, and just appreciate all that Rome had to share.  In this book she also talks about Roman/Italian lifestyles, history, government and a myriad of other topics. 

Gilbert is a very honest narrator.  She doesn't hold back on any topics, including those of her own personal life.  Which can be disconcerting at times.  She's also very honest about the people she meets and has relationships with.  I actually wondered at times if she had changed people's names as to avoid getting them angry, because she is brutally honest.  But it offers a very clear look at Italy and some of its people and their habits.  And Gilbert knows a lot of people because of the line of work she is in, so it's just not neighbors and friends, but also politicians and some celebrities that she writes about in this book.

I can honestly say that I enjoyed most of this book.  I found the information on the politics, history, lifestyle and many other topics fascinating.  What I didn't find so fascinating was the amount of detail given to her romantic exploits.  While some was useful for seeing how Roman lifestyles worked, others were just a bit gratuitous and detracted from the book as a whole.  But, since I could just skim past those sections it didn't bother me too bad.  She does put a lot of detail in and I especially enjoyed the descriptions of the food.  It made me want to just make a plate of pasta and find a good hunk of cheese to gobble down.  Maybe a glass of wine too.  And now I'm hungry.  Some time is given to the landscape and scenery of Italy and Rome too, although I would have definitely enjoyed hearing more about it as I'm sure the same level of detail would have been given in the writing.

Definitely an interesting book on living in Rome.  It offered a unique perspective from someone who's been living a Roman life for awhile and isn't afraid to tell it how it is.

**This book was received as a free advanced reader's copy**

My Home Sweet Rome
Copyright 2013
328 pages

May 07, 2014

The Forest House by Marion Zimmer Bradley

The Forest House is the second book in the Avalon series, coming after Mists of Avalon, but actually preceding it in the timeline. 

It tells of the time just after the slaughter of Mona, when the priestesses were confined and controlled by the druids in a small complex in the woods.  Rome was still in charge and a rebellion was rising up against them.  So when Eilan, a girl born of a druid family, falls in love with a half Roman half British man, their love is denied and she enters the Forest House to be a priestess instead.  But fate has bigger plans for her and because of one night of passion, she'll have to form large secrets that could come back to haunt her later.

Eilan is ok.  I never really feel like we actually know her.  We know some of her desires, but the larger part of her thoughts are kept from us.  Her assistant we actually know better and was in many ways a stronger woman.  She also seemed to have the best interests of everyone at heart as compared to Eilan.  Dieda, Eilan's cousin, I could have done without.  She was spiteful and didn't really add anything to the story except to be a source of contention, and even then she was never a real threat.  And then there were the Druids.  What a sad lot this group was.  I couldn't find a redeeming quality in any of them.

The plot moved slowly on this book as well.  I normally like Bradley's detail, but in this case it just kept the book from progressing.  Well, when it wasn't jumping through time in fits and starts.  It would be nothing to spend quite a few chapters on a particular timeline and then all of a sudden have it be four years later.  All that being said, it was interesting to hear about the times before the Mists of Avalon, and how the Priestesses were treated differently.  It is amazing to think how easily one group can be controlled by another, even though it's something that happens in the real world every day.

I can't say this was a wonderful book.  It had some history that was interesting, but that was it.  Mists of Avalon was far better.

The Forest House
Copyright 1993
417 pages

May 04, 2014

Seeds of Hope by Jane Goodall

So, the only thing I ever really knew about Jane Goodall was that she was the lady who worked with chimpanzees.  That's it.  Turns out, she has done a lot more than that.  And a lot of that had to do with plants.

From an early age, Goodall loved plants, and even had a special tree at her grandmother's house.  While off fighting to save the chimpanzees she was studying the local vegetation as well.  In this book there are some accounts of her own experience, but it is also a book of history and current activities in regards to the plant world and the development of world crops.  She covers GMO's, plantations, poisonous plants, beneficial plants and much more.  The actual book is broken into four parts.  My Love For the Natural World, which is just Goodall's history with plants.  Hunting, Gathering and Gardening, which talks about the different gardens and seed banks in the world and even has a special section on orchids.  Uses and Abuses of Plants, which includes sections on healing, drug plants, plantations, mono-crops and GMO's.  And the Way Forward which shows what is going on now to help preserve some of the different plants of the world that are rapidly becoming extinct.

Goodall is almost always polite.  When faced with distasteful topics she kind of side steps around the people who are making it bad and instead focuses on those who are doing good and making differences.  So nothing is scathing in this book in regards to anyone.  And a lot of her personal stories are very nice too.  It's easy to see she was close to her family and enjoyed spending time with her grandmother and the garden that she had.

This book covers some controversial topics.  Goodall is a pretty large name and she blasts GMO's and other crop practices pretty hard.  There's going to be some mad people as a result.  But, since I'm anti-GMO I'm perfectly fine with what she has to say.  If you don't believe the same way though, you won't be happy.  You have been warned.  She did bring up a bunch of topics I knew nothing about and found incredibly interesting.  Like the amount of methane that is produced by rice paddies.  I always thought rice was a pretty good crop, but on a large scale that doesn't appear to be the case.  Just little facts like that make the book well worth reading.  And the pleasant tone, despite the hard topics, makes it very engaging and easy to read. 

I enjoyed this book by Goodall and because of that would probably read more of her books.  She takes an interesting topic and introduces readers to all parts of it.

**This book was received as a Goodreads Giveaway**

Seeds of Hope
Copyright 2014
420 pages