Monday, May 27, 2013

2013 Books of the first half of the year.

A review of the first half of the year on public transport in Warsaw.

Minus two as they were given to the book club.

Paperback cover.
Extra Virgin: Amongst the olive groves of Liguria - Annie Hawes. Paperback (339 pages)

A little disappointed with this book. It had such potential. There is a basis of a really great story, but it just seemed to lose its way. While there is some great dialogue to give you an understanding of how things are in a small community in Italy, it seemed not to know really how to show this. Annie forgets to tell us when she is leaving for extended periods, and other details I would like to know about keeping a property like this or how living in an Italian provincial area would be. That said, it is still certainly readable and many would enjoy it.  


Dust sleeve cover
Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down - Wifey and Nicey. Hardback (180 pages)

Not a lot of anything really. It is a really sweet idea to write a book about tea and biscuits, the focus, however, is really the biscuits. The problem is that there is only a touch on the world of biscuits in history or contents of the biscuit. It basically reads as an advert for different biscuits. It was ok, maybe I was just expecting too much. I would have preferred more information about tea, teapots, tea cups history or modern time information. To say something like "everyone likes different tea" as your throw away line it should maybe then just be called "Book of biscuits I like" instead. 

Paperback cover
Parrot in a Pepper tree - Christ Stewart. Paperback (240 pages)

A follow up to "Driving over Lemons" that I read last year. Early on a lot of the book was stories or linkages to the previous book, so you probably could read it independently of the first book. While the book was interesting from an ex-pat perspective, it really just waffled along and didn't seem to have any real direction. I enjoyed it, but I am not sure I would recommend it to others to read. Therefore, I think it means it wasn't a great book overall.   

In The Land of Oz - Howard Jacobson. Paperback (380 pages)
A story of an English Jew (not something I would normally need to mention although he does on a continual basis) and his ex-pat Australian wife. They wanted to see the "real" Australia, but it seemed as soon as they were away from "civilization", they fell apart and clamoured for the sights/sounds of a township. Then as soon as they got to a township they proceeded to ask everyone about their views on aboriginal people. Hoping desperately for something racist to note. The majority of this book is whiny and complaining, nothing is like England or similar to a city or a civilized nation. It was interesting that after asking everyone they meet about aboriginals and their views on them as soon as they arrived in Perth, the home of Mrs Jacobson, they never asked any of her associates their thoughts, but did seem to enjoy a very high lifestyle on yachts, in the theatre and wining, and dining.  To be honest, maybe with my patriotic hat on, I would say one of the worst books I have read.


Paperback cover
 Angela's Ashes - Frank McCourt. Paperback (452pages)
I had heard of the movie, but knew nothing of the book. My wife read this and loved it, so I thought as we are going to visit Ireland this year maybe I should have a look at it. It was a fabulous book. It lets you put life now into context, when people have literally nothing, no real reason to keep going other than family and the chance that things will get better shows the people of today what really is important. Also seeing the church from the perspective of the very poor it is interesting to see how they really treat the poor, a group they regularly claim to assist. A great read, especially for anyone who has a connection to Ireland, the Catholic church, or just loves a great story.   


Paperback cover.

Batavia's Graveyard - Mike Dash. Paperback (422 pages)
Wow, I am really enjoying history of late. This was a story, I probably should have known but didn't. It is a story of the Dutch boat the Batavia. It was shipwrecked on the Western Australia coast and what ensured will just blow your mind open. I can't believe that nobody has yet made this as a movie. An incredible amount of research has been put into this book and it gives a depth I would never have expected. I say, read this just to know a piece of Australian history that never was as well as to hear about how hard decisions can be made by people who could possibly be a little nuts. It will really have you wanting to know what happens.

Paperback cover.

Thirteen Moons: Charles Frazier. Paperback (500 pages)
Last year I read Cold Mountain his first book, and I surprisingly really enjoyed it. This however was a little bit disappointing in comparison, I must emphasis in comparison. It was a good solid book, but didn't reach the quality and interest that Cold Mountain did. It is full of Cherokee history and tales which I thought, in theory, I would really enjoy. The problem being that even though the story had a great deal to offer with some really interesting characters it just was a little bland and at times too verbose to keep it moving smoothly. That said, if you have a chance, it really isn't horrible..... 


Paperback cover.

The Conjurer's Bird: Martin Davies. Paperback (309 pages)
Overall, the book being a tale of history and taxonomy sounds a little drab, but the book was a nice lightly written story about the history (fictional I should add) of Joseph Banks and his life and the repercussions of it. The story was interesting, I found the actually Joseph Banks section a little slow compared to the more modern parts of the book and, I know this sounds harsh, it was a little amateur in the writing. It was nice, it was pleasant, but won't win any awards.


Paperback cover.

Sweet honey, Bitter Lemons: Matthew Fort. Paperback (337 pages)
A really interesting book about Sicily which is, in some ways, the forgotten island of the Med. Everyone talks a lot about the Greek Isles, Sardinia gets plenty of press, of course the Spanish Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Ibiza) are always popular with travellers, especially the young ravers, and that leaves us with the biggest, Sicily. It is considered poor and hopeless by many Italians, and of course gave us the concept of the Mafia. But the history of Sicily was much more diverse than I thought. The book runs through this, but mostly it focuses on something much more interesting, to me, the food. It is a tour of the isle around the coast and across the centre. It also includes recipes. I really enjoyed this and as we are going to Sicily this year, it was a very apt present from my wife.  7/10

Hardback sleeve cover

Goat Song: A Seasonal Life, A Short History of Herding, and the Art of Making Cheese: Brad Kessler. Hardback. (272 pages)

I really had high hopes for this book, as many people know I have an odd idea that I want to go out some day and raise goats and make goat cheese. So, this being what the author has done, had me very excited. While there is some very interesting information in here, and some great stories and it is well written, I just felt it lacked a little something. And the constant reference to religion did get a little tiring. Overall though, it was a very fun book and get me excited for the future in possibilities.


Hard cover, cover

Maynard, Secrets of a Bacon Curer: Maynard Davies. Hardback. (170 pages).

This is a very sweet book. From a man who grew up on the fringes of society by being dyslexic and therefore unable to be a scholastic success he entered the world of bacon. The book is written in the way I would prefer more biographies, as if Maynard was sitting by the fire, with a whisky in hand recounting tales. It is not what you would call "well written" but nor does it need to be. If you have ever wanted to read a "real" personal biography and not a celeb that has been ghost written to look intelligent then this is a great one for you. It is short and not for the vegetarians per se, but still a really lovely read.

Hardcover, dust sleeve

Mattanza: Love and Death in the Sea of Sicily: Theresa Maggio. Hardback. (288 pages).

A really interesting book, I wasn't sure whether it would be horrid, boring or fascinating. It was more the latter than the other two. It tells the tale of tradition, mixed with economics, mixed with a little romance and friendship. Another easy read but still covering something I new nothing about, so, therefore it was a good read.


Please note none of these photos are mine and have been pulled from random locations on the web. Mostly 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Old Rome.

Ancient Rome.... kind of sounds like a contradiction in terms to most people. We all think of the Colosseum, the Pantheon, Romans in togas, all those stereotypical things you can imagine that were associated with Asterix and Obelix or that Julius Caesar salad guy. So, here they all are, except maybe the salad.....

After enjoying all these old sites we needed a good lunch. We stumbled upon this restaurant.
I had sausage with beans.

She the fishcakes with roasted potatoes.

Now the Pantheon

We were lucky to enjoy some free performances when we arrived

This nymph was part of a Russian singing troop
Also a fun place to photograph the crowd.

Couple of kilos of those white truffles please....

The only photo of the Trevi fountain was actually more about the hipsters in front of it

Christmas Markets

Oh no the light is going... he says

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