Saturday, January 5, 2019

Back Finally with another BOOK REVIEW

After a LONG Long Time Away...

I am finally posting again and I will try to do better. I'm not promising a "regular" posting but I hope "periodically" will work out.

Of all the books I have been reading over these intervening years, I have to say I have been most excited about a series by an author a co-worker and I discovered this past summer. I love mysteries and I love historical novels so you can figure I would really be excited to find a book series that incorporates BOTH! That describes Ann Swinfen's series "The OXFORD MEDIEVAL MYSTERIES".

Sadly, I learned that my newest, favorite-est author passed away this summer, just as I discovered her books. Happily, she has written quite a few books - more than one series - and the series are all historical novels!

The book in the image at right - "The Bookseller's Tale" - is the first in the Oxford Medieval Mystery series. After I have read all those (there are six and I have read four) I will begin the other historical novel series she wrote - "The Chronicles of Christoval Alvarez" of which there are nine. The image above are from the Ann Swinfen website where you can find all kinds of information about her and her books.

I highly recommend the Oxford series to anyone interested in the period of time just after the Black Plague ends in Britain. Ann Swinfen explores, in a continuing storyline, the different aspects of life in a Medieval village from a Bookseller to a Merchant to a Huntsman, etc. and also all classes from rich to poor, businessman to cleric, and she even throws in a few spies and political intrigues. 

If anyone else has read any of Ann Swinfen's books, I would love to hear your thoughts. And if anyone has had the opportunity to read books written along a similar vein by other authors, I would love to read your recommendations! 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Poem ~ Nature's Gems

~ With Photos ~

Nature’s Gems
Raindrops and dewdrops
Glittering icy crystals
Natures delicate gems
Decorating, transforming
Dreamy heavenly blossoms
Common dandy seeds and
Dazzling frozen needles

poem- 7/25/2015 - mARTa weller
photos 2013 & 2014 by mARTa

Long Overdue Return

It has been over two years since I last posted on my Blog.
And it has been almost that long since I even looked at it.

Much like a library book, I am way overdue. I should be fined! And looking at the state of some of my past postings - broken photos and non-working links, I guess you could say I have indeed been fined.

I will work on repairing the broken aspects of my blog
and I promise to post once again on a semi-regular basis.


I guess I just need to get back into writing.
I need to exercise my writing muscles.
I have to keep my "little grey cells"* in working order.

I promise.

Hopefully, the words I post - along with my photos -
will be interesting to not only myself but to others.
Since, why else does one write a Blog that is published for the world (so to speak) to see?

*Did you get the literary reference?
"Little grey cells" from Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Last Thing I Read...

Yes, I'm back. And I have to comment on the book I just finished reading...
The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (recently revealed as J.K. Rowling).

I must admit I have read all the Harry Potter books (more than once) but did not consider reading Rowling's first fiction title following the end of her fantasy series - not because I had heard bad comments on it; not because it was purported to be completely different than the HP series; but because it wasn't a genre I read very often. I read mostly mystery, sci fi, fantasy and biography - not straight fiction. I'm always on the watch for books from my favorite authors or intriguing new authors but as I said, I chose not to read the next offering by Rowling because The Casual Vacancy seemed too much straight fiction for my taste.

Truthfully, I had not considered reading The Cuckoo's Calling when I first ran across it (only one library in our county library system owned it when it first came out and one of our patron's had requested the book) because I was not impressed by its cover. Yes, yes. I know. Never judge a book by its cover. But when I am training new volunteers at our library, I tell each one the importance of displaying new books with their covers face out BECAUSE most people DO judge a book by its cover. Face it, publishers employ whole graphics departments to create eye-catching cover art. The cover should make you stop and want to pick up the book, open the cover to read the fly leaf or maybe even the first paragraph. When our patron returned this book, I just checked it back in and sent it on home to the one library in our county that owned it.

Then this summer, it was revealed that Rowling had penned this book under the pseudonym of Galbraith in order to have the book stand on its own merit. That, plus the information that the publisher helped keep the secret of the true name of the author even from some of its employees and the pre-pub reviewers, let alone the media, intrigued me. I went online to Amazon to see what the early consumer reviews had to say and was impressed. I decided I needed to read the book.

I'm glad I did.

This book not only had a good plot-line and well-developed, captivating characters, but it was very well written. Entirely up to, if not exceeding, the standards set by the writing in her HP novels. Because of my love of mystery novels (from childhood) and my enjoyment of detective stories (written and on television) I found myself identifying with the female character, Robin, who worked as a temp secretary for the main character, Cormoran Strike. The character (Robin) also admitted to a dream of wanting to solve mysteries, wanting to try her hand at being a detective. I liked how involved she became and how much her natural curiosity and intelligence assisted Cormoran in solving the case. It was also interesting to see the point of view shift back and forth from Robin to Cormoran, keeping the plot moving forward without bogging down in narrative. And last but not least, I sure thought I had the killer figured out but was pleasantly surprised  by the denouement.

I can't wait for the next one in the series.
And there will be a next.
J.K. Rowling says there will be!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Photo a Day Challenge (week 1)

My friend from Down Under (Briali) invited me to participate in a photo project, one she had done last year and planned to do again this year. I have accepted the challenge and have been posting daily on the Photo A Day Facebook group. 

The photos of the hundreds and hundreds of people participating have been quite a variety - many absolutely fantastic and beautiful, some very professional although the persons posting some of these professional-looking shots have said they are playing with new apps on their cell phone or their new camera. Some have obviously taken quick snapshots, such as myself. I have tried my hand at composing some of the photos, but I have found the idea of the challenge - which is to take a photo centered on a theme or prompt that changes for each day - to lend itself to the impulsive snapshot rather than a composed photo. Some of my best pictures are momentary captures that I was lucky enough to have my camera along to take. 

This Photo a Day Challenge has encouraged me to have my camera in easy reach, all the time - to constantly be on the lookout for that unusual or interesting image just asking to be captured and shared.

Here are the first week of January prompts and photos I took (along with a caption for the photos).

Day 1. (today)  
Today is the first day of the new year and I wanted to do something traditional to start the year off, so I made  Æbleskiver - a Danish delight (which some people would equate to pancake balls but are really much better) generally made for Lille Juleaften (Little Christas Eve). 
I was unable to make this for Little Christmas Eve, Christmas Eve, or even Christmas Day but January 1st is still during the 12 days of Christmas so all was well.

Æbleskiver is made with beaten egg whites folded into the buttermilk batter and cooked in a special pan. My two skillets were given to me as bridal shower gifts. One is wrought iron, the other is a teflon coated modern pan. They cook quickly and are served hot with butter and a choice of toppings from plain white granulated sugar, to applesauce or syrup or even jam. Æbleskiver means apple fritter but no one ever puts apples in the batter. But if there are leftovers, they are sprinkled with sugar and stored in a cold place and eaten cold like a donut.
I like to serve my Danish food on my dinnerware that is also from Denmark. Need I say that all eight of my great grandparents came from Denmark?

Day 2. (new)
I work at a library and here are some of the books we just got in on this day -                      
  New releases and 
        New to our collection.

Day 3. (Heart) 
Five years ago next month, my husband ended up having quintuple bypass surgery. He spent nearly two weeks in the hospital and came home with this pillow which he was supposed to hold against his chest if he had to cough. The pillow shows all the blood vessels the doctors replaced with pieces of a vein they took from his leg. I am so glad he came out of the hospital as good as new and remains healthy as we approach this anniversary. He has been MY heart and my best friend for over 35 years.

Day 4 (The View From Here) two photos:  
#1 I took this one early this morning        #2 is My view from the sofa of my dog,
just after sunrise through our front            Franklin looking over my cat Peabody's head...
window of my dormant Hydrangea          if Peabody views something interesting outside
and fronds from its neighboring               Franklin MUST have a chance to see whatever
Holger Juniper.                                          "it" is (I call this photo "Whatchalookin at?").

Day 5. (movement) 
I had a hard time choosing 
photos of movement.
I had some from a while ago
that I really liked as well as
the ones I took on Day 5...

#1 Driving through a fast moving 
very bad thunderstorm just
outside of Wheeling, WV
at twilight. 

And #2 - I play flute in an
Alumni Marching Band
and each year we also
perform concerts.
Our band front performs
with us on stage for a 
couple songs. Here is a
flag squad member
during practice for
our most recent concert.

Day 5. (movement) Continued:
I took many photos today 
but none really conveyed 
the theme very well. 
So I am resorting to a couple 
photos taken previously, 
at Christmas in fact. 

#1 Peabody playing with 
his brand new mouse toy. 
And #2 Franklin playing 
Tug-of-War with his Wubba toy. 
(Franklin's pic yet to come)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Poem ~ Loneliness - be still

Loneliness – be still
                        by Marilyn Monroe in 1955

So-o-o-o-o many lights in the darkness
making skeletons of buildings
and life in the streets.
And the moon so full and dark.
What was it I thought about yesterday
in the streets?
It seems so far away –
long ago.
It’s good they told me what the moon was
when I was a child
for I could not understand it now.
Noises of impatience from cab drivers,
always driving – who  must drive –
hot, dusty, icy streets so they can eat,
and perhaps save for a vacation
in which they can drive their wives
all the way across the country
to see her relations.
Then the river – the part made of Pepsi Cola –
the park – thank God for the park.
Yet, I am not looking at these things.
I’m looking for my lover.
That silent river which stirs and swells itself
with whatever passes over it –
wind, rain, great ships.
I love the river –
never unmoved by anything.
Sad, sweet trees - 
I wish for you - rest
but you must be wakeful.
You must suffer
when your covering of dark golden –
even dead – leaves leave you strong and naked.
You must be –
alive – when looking dead.
Straight through
bent with wind
and bear the pain and joy
of newness on your limbs.
It’s quiet now.
And the silence is alone
except for the thunderous rumbling
of things unknown,
distant drums very present
but for the sharp sounds of piercing screams
and the whispers of things suddenly hushed
to moans beyond sadness – terror beyond fear.
The cry of things dim and too young to be known yet.
The sobs of life itself.
Loneliness – be still.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Difficulty of Working in a Library

I am sure you are wondering - "What could be so difficult about working in a library?"

First let me assure you, we do not have time to read books in between checking books out to patrons and checking them back in again. At least, not at the busy libraries where I have worked (this includes the one I work in now). We are lucky to get all the extra jobs done that keep the library humming as efficiently as it does!

The difficulty to which I refer is the one inferred by the oft quoted statement -
"So many books, so little time".

Daily, hourly, I see books coming and going that I would dearly love to read or at least look through. I have tried making a list of them, but that is all it remains - a list. Possibly a list of books to read when I retire? Unfortunately, retirement is not in my near future so seeing all these wonderful, intriguing books go by is akin to turning a child loose in a candy shop with only a quarter to spend. (Yes, I know candy costs more than two bits but that is the point!)

Recently, a book came in to fulfill a request for a patron that I had to take the time to look at. As soon as I opened its cover and glanced through a couple pages, I knew I had to request a copy for myself - a copy I could check out and take home to look through and read more closely. So I did. And another copy arrived within a couple days (oh, the wonderful efficiency of the Berks County Public Library System!).

The book?
"fragments: poems, intimate notes, letters by Marilyn Monroe"  

This is a collection of her own notes and writings - diligently reproduced photographically. The left pages are the photographs of her writing (sometimes very hard to read) and the opposing pages have the editors' ideas of what she wrote, typed out, including all the arrows and cross-outs indicated. The editors noted they tried to put an order to her writings in their typed out pages but sometimes it was not clear what she was trying to say. Some of the poems she wrote had sections crossed out or arrows showing she wanted the order of sections changed or that she was unsatisfied with the words she had chosen. It was obvious she was not finished with many of her writings either, some were just half-formed thoughts and ideas.

One "poem" in particular was transcribed by the editors in a way that I don't believe she meant. I have worked on it, reading and re-reading it. Writing it out and moving the phrases around - trying to see what her arrows may have meant. I think I got it figured out a little better than the editors but it is hard to say. I don't really think Marilyn was really finished with it. In any case, I will post my own transcription of her scribbles and let you decide on the coherency of her poem. Of course, you will have to borrow or buy the book to compare my transcription with that of the editors of the book.

Marilyn Monroe was an amazing, deep, intelligent, sensitive as well as sensual woman. Of course she was troubled. Her life was full of turmoil. Her childhood was filled with things a child should not have to deal with. She had to grow up WAY too quickly, but she was very quick to learn important lessons and was able to understand herself and her actions and reactions very well.

I will leave you with one of her statements, an admonishment to herself, but one we should all take to heart:
"There is nothing to hold on to - but reality
to realize the present, whatever it may be - 
because that's how it is 
and it's much better to know reality
(or things as they are)
than not to know.
To have as few illusions as possible."