Winter Reading Challenge 2022

Good morning and a happy Monday to you all! I know, I know, Mondays aren’t really known for great cheer, but we can find something pleasant to talk about, right? In my case (and many of yours) this very often involves books! Today is no exception, and as I type this, I’m still a little giddy about our local library’s Winter Reading Challenge for Grownups that I am participating in. I’ve also joined another challenge earlier in the year and will for sure be writing about this—it’s pretty fantastic for its own reasons.

Today, though, the library. As some of you also know, my son, now 18, has been going to the library since he was two weeks old – it’s practically been his second home. He doesn’t go now as often as he used to, trying as he is to figure out how to juggle his more adult responsibilities (university, work, friends and associated activities, etc.). But I was a little excited to see him get into the choices I’ve been working through for this library reading challenge, which is set up in the form of a bingo card. 

With five rows of five columns per, each box has a category and participants choose a book that fits,as you can see in the image above. My choices for the first row are:

The Spiritual Poems of Rumi

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (J.K. Rowling)

The Year of Miss Agnes (Kirkpatrick Hill)

The Printer’s Apprentice (Stephen Krensky)

The Cricket in Times Square (George Seldon)

Each time you finish a row, you color it in, write down your titles and submit to the librarian, who gives you a small prize. (I believe they have bookmarks and a mug.) Naturally, your bingo can be horizontal, vertical or diagonal. Additionally, each completed bingo row also acts as an entry to a prize drawing. If you complete all twenty-five squares, you are also entered into the Blackout Drawing. (I have no idea what the prizes are for these two contests!)

Oh, did I mention that this is for books read in between January 24 and March 7? Ha ha! Yeah, I have most of my choices picked out, but this has already changed a few times and may change again. I really want to try to fill in all twenty-five squares but am not entirely sure this will happen. But I’m plugging away! I’m a bit bummed that my January book for my other reading challenge can’t count, as I finished it on January 23!!! Well, that’s part of what makes it a reading challenge, hey? I also had a slight delay as I didn’t learn about this until about a week or so in.

But! I have an advantage re: timing because, having recently been sick, I’m spending a lot of time at home resting after work, so the reading gives me something to do and the time is a bonus! So, maybe I can pull this off after all? Well, we have yet to see, but it will be fun anyway, especially as the Harry Potter book above is also part of a reading challenge between my son and me as we aim to read the whole series this winter. We also re-read it in 2020, which was something we turned to when the world was pretty much shut down.

Speaking of the world being shut down: I think most of us would agree it was not fun at all. With rare exception, people really need people, if on varying levels, and the shutdowns have really cast a pall over societies across the globe. They did a lot of damage short- and long-term. Our own library was closed for I think over a year. (I forget exactly how long, but it was a very long time.) So I am really grateful for this particular contest because it’s a fun way to get re-involved in a community activity at a pace – reading and meeting up – that works for each person. 

I’ll be writing more about the books I choose, where they are in my history and where they might lead me to moving forward. You can see the actual challenge here to see the actual details they lay out, as well as the three different bingo cards participants could choose. (I chose number one.) You may even be inspired to organize your own reading challenge!

Talk of Ghostly Tales on Halloween and Throughout the Year

Anticipating an anthology of ghostly tales currently on its way to my neck of the woods, I’ve been thumbing through other collections and excitedly thinking about what the new set will bring

It’s been a crazy last few weeks and Halloween, sorry to say, fell off my radar. Well, to be completely honest, I don’t really whoop it up as a general rule, but it can be fun to engage in some of the playful traditions, such as making scary (fun scary) treats or reading ghost stories.

Wait, who am I kidding? I read ghost stories at all parts of the year! While I don’t really care for some tales that people qualify as ghost stories – yarns that tend to fall, for me, more into the camp of horror, such as werewolves and zombies – I do love a haunting. However, I’m pretty much a coward when it comes to such things, and I don’t think I’d ever go into a dwelling with a scary reputation, for example, in real life. So to follow Algernon Blackwood’s Jim Shorthouse and Aunt Julia into number thirteen, an abandoned house that has experienced a series of hastily departing tenants, provides a thrill not unlike the one Jim himself feels, even after my having read the story dozens of times. There is also a fabulously funny haunting within Oscar Wilde’s “The Canterville Ghost,” one whose poignant ending provides something of a map toward the reason why we are so drawn to them, even with their unknown qualities. They scare us at times, yes, but we also feel a sympathetic curiosity, not just to their current predicaments, but also the lives they once lived, and how they came to be within the same flux as ourselves.

Hauntings is on its way to my mail box!

There are, of course, so many varieties of ghost stories as well as how they are told, it would be impossible to pin down an exhaustive catalogue in a mere blog entry—surely a reflection of all the unique characters that live and have lived in our world. I’m very fortunate in that my exploration of this genre is enabled by my son, who likes to buy me books, recently having gifted me Chilling Ghost Stories, companion to another I own (and that he also brought home for me), Great Ghost Stories. They are indeed both chilling and great, some by masters such as M.R. James and Ambrose Bierce, as well as other, lesser-known authors. Also included and to be marvelously re-discovered are novelists and short story writers whose influence has waned in this century: Charlotte Riddell, Amelia Edwards, W.W. Jacobs.

It is a truism, within the discussion of ghost stories and tales of hauntings, that as long as humans carry on, the tales will be told. Modern stories may or may not reference or allude to histories that have settled within the collective or individual consciousness, but they do continue to link us to the world alongside ours, introducing thrilling perspectives and raising hairs. One such I had the opportunity to preview, within a setting I don’t often enter in the reading world—that of a mental institution—was Samantha Wilcoxson’s “Among the Lost,” from the newly published Hauntings. Wilcoxson and nine other authors “take you through a labyrinth of historical horror,” encountering such characters as a young psych nurse who encounters a mystery at her new place of employment; a tormented Roman general; and a Norse woman confronting a terrifying destiny. I am delighted to add that I will be reviewing this collection in the next few weeks (it is currently en route), so do stay tuned!

For those ghost story aficionados and others who simply cannot wait to get their ghastly tales on, Hauntings is available at Amazon and Amazon UK. I should add that Paula Lofting, the collection’s editor and the only contributor whose work I am familiar with, is on familiar ground, historically speaking. She writes about pre-1066 in Sons of the Wolf and The Wolf Banner, both of which I have read and reviewed. So it will be intriguing to see where she takes her storytelling skills within the ghostly plane, and what her co-authors also bring to the genre.

Happy Halloween, and see you back here soon!

Book Release Update: Our Anthology Has Been Released!

The Road Not Travelled: Alternative Tales of the Wars of the Roses

for Richard Tearle

Silver groat of King Richard III (Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Back in April, I dropped an update about an anthology I had written a short story for and preparing for a July release. There was a lot of back and forth re: corrections and I too received some returns from our editor, Joanne Larner, whose attention to detail truly saved me from making some very silly mistakes.

At the time I also didn’t know who would be writing our foreword. While this may be “old news” for some now, as my update comes a bit late, I’m still pleased as punched to report that we have had an early release with a foreword by Matthew Lewis, Chairman of the Richard III Society. He penned a really fantabulous bit, including some background for those unfamiliar with the whole Wars of the Roses shebang.

And now guess what!? I can’t believe I was able to contain it for this long, but a few days ago I received my box of author copies! The box was super heavy, though I didn’t notice it until I tried to shift it up the stairs. “How in the world did you carry this thing?” I queried my son, who just shrugged. Ah well, boys, you know, it’s just a box to them! He rolled his eyes when he looked into the box, supremely uninterested in the Wars of the Roses as he is. My eyebrow went up just a tad, though, because for someone who says he doesn’t really care all that much, he sure does know a lot about Richard III! And I still have a wonderful little drawing of Richard he made when he was younger.

So, I haven’t finished reading the entire book yet – it’s a little over 350 pages! Not just some flash-in-the-pan, thin volume you read in one day and forget about by the next. It’s got some heft to it, and that’s not only attributable to its physical weight. What I have read so far is very thoughtful and considered, and this just renews what I’d already felt about being in the company of this group of authors: extremely privileged and humbled. What great company to be in – thankfully they would have me! And that would include the late Richard Tearle, to whom the volume is dedicated. I did not know Richard very well myself, only becoming acquainted with him a few years back when he very kindly gave me permission to use some of his photos here at the blog. He was always very friendly with me and made transfer of info and photos back and forth practically effortless. Sadly, Richard was no longer with us to see publication, but I have hope that he can see us from his place now, as pleased as we are. I believe he can hear me when I say, “Well done, Richard! Your story shines.”

My own yarn, “Episodes in the Life of King Richard III,” is the penultimate tale, the final one being a wrap-up of a three-part story that serves as a foundation to the book. I think I may just skip mine when I get to it – I’m a little scared to look at it! That final one, though, I’ve ready it about thirty times already, and I adore it. This is really very thrilling and I hope you all will have a look at our volume, which I also am happy to add again benefits the Scoliosis Association UK (SAUK). King Richard himself, noted even by his enemies to be a skilled and courageous warrior, suffered from scoliosis, a sideways curvature of the spine that can reduce lung function owing to the extra space the curve takes up in the chest. According to the Mayo Clinic, while some cases of scoliosis might be caused by cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy, the cause of most cases is unknown.

The Road Not Travelled: Alternative Tales of the Wars of the Roses is available in Kindle and paperback, at Amazon, Amazon UK, Amazon Australia and Amazon India. (There may be others I am unaware of.) Please consider leaving a review, which are akin to gold for indie authors! It need not be long, fancy, intellectual, academic or any of those other things lots of people think book reviews must be. It can be if you like, but really even just a few words saying what you liked about the book, what might make it better, etc. Even something as short as “It’s a fabulous book!” works! My fellow authors and I will be most grateful.

Speaking of authors, here is a list of those whose stories appear in The Road Not Travelled*, in chronological order of story:

Maria Grazia Leotta

Jennifer Bradley

Alex Marchant

C.J. Lock

Toni Mount

Brian Wainwright

J.P. Reedman

Roslyn Ramona Brown

Joanne R. Larner

Sandra Heath Wilson

Bernadette Lyons

Susan Lamb

Terri Beckett

Kit Mareska

Kathy Kingsbury

Joanna Kingswood Iddison

Michéle Schindler

Clare Anderson

Richard Tearle

Jennifer C. Wilson

Lisl Madeleine

*several authors have contributed more than one story

…with amazing cover art by the talented Riika Nikko

About the Blogger

Lisl Madeleine’s first career goal in life (at age six) was to become a spy. She fell in love with Merlin, however, and espionage took a back seat. For better or worse, she is intrigued by ghosts and loves rain. She is currently at work on an expanded version of her short story, “Episodes in the Life of King Richard III,” as well as historical fiction set in the final months of King Harold II’s reign and another a couple of generations following Hastings. She writes poetry and enjoys reading Rumi, Keats, Tagore and Rosetti, amongst others, and insists that poetry is meant to be read aloud.

Added Note: This post has been updated to include an

escapee paragraph with links and note about reviews. Thank you!

Browsing Books: Ricardian Reading Edition

It’s happened! Our local library has re-opened for limited browsing, though I haven’t yet been in. I’ve had the good fortune, however, of receiving lots of reading recommendations, most online, and today I share a few, including a couple of the lesser-known titles. Here’s to bulging bookshelves!

Death and the Chapman by Kate Sedley – In truth, I’m not quite sure who recommended this one, though I can guess. I ordered it from the library, received it, forgot about it and then just yesterday started to read it. I haven’t gotten terrifically far in yet, but it’s enough to see this isn’t precisely Ricardian reading as we tend to define it. Still, I include it here because the narrator, Roger Chapman, an old man who looks back into his youth when Richard III was king, mentions Richard and a few pages later gives a lengthy enough explanation of how the seeds of the dynastic wars of his era were sown – with Bolingbroke usurping Richard II’s throne – and how Richard III became king. Lengthy enough, that is, to make me wonder if more of this will come into play within Roger’s own story. So this I have yet to see, but even if it doesn’t, it appeals to me because I’m terribly interested in the ordinary people of the day, how they made their living, what their struggles were, their thoughts about the monarchs and those in their courts. 

The Rose in Spring: The Fascinating Story of Cecily Neville (Book I in the Cecily Neville quartet) by Eleanor Fairburn – Based on one review, this looks to be the story one wishes to read about Proud Cis: not a bodice ripper, it is said to present a reasonable story of the early years of the Rose of Raby, through her engagement to Richard Plantagenet (father of Richard III), and concluding at the time of her husband’s exile to Ireland. Every Ricardian has heard much about Cecily Neville: her strength, her will and determination, that she outlived every one of her sons. Some, however, myself included, know very little about her up close, and this historical fiction series seems to present a great opportunity to begin changing that.

Garland of the Realm by Janet Kilbourne – Presents Richard III in the last years of his life and, interestingly enough, written when the author was just fourteen. This knowledge may bias any conversation regarding the book’s worth, having read a quite glowing but fair review, as well as commentary about it being filled with clichés and “one of the worst” of Ricardian fiction. The reviewer maintains her position, citing examples such as individuality bestowed on characters and a “childlike animosity” from Prince Edward and conversations “done nicely” between this heir and Richard, at the time Lord Protector. The ending described also seems quite fascinating and I am intrigued to read how Richard’s realizations, as the reviewer mentions, play out in his mind. 

I, Richard Plantagenet: The Road from Fotheringhay by J. P. Reedman – It’s a bit tricky here because not only has Reedman written a boatload of books, I also want just about all of them (and you may as well, so fair warning). A reconstruction of Richard Plantagenet’s early childhood, it opens with Richard in later life musing about those days as he makes a notation into his Book of Hours. This story draws me to it because for years I’ve read that we know very little of Richard’s earlier years, but here the author draws upon recent research and DNA – and of course other, already-established documentation – to piece together a tale said to be worthy of a king. For instance, the death of Richard’s father and older brother Edmund, and Richard’s own subsequent exile as his mother is captured by Margaret of Anjou’s army. The childhood story continues in Tante le Desiree, and I don’t plan on missing either of them.

The White Rose and the Red: A Narrative Poem about the Battle of Wakefield by Bard of Burgh Conan – This entry perhaps jumped out at me the most because of its presentation. I’ve never before come across a full Ricardian story in verse, a genre ideally suited not just to any Ricardian tale, but specifically the one it does concern itself with: the Battle of Wakefield. This is where Richard, Duke of York and his son Edmund, mentioned just above, were brutally killed, the former’s head displayed on a pike at Micklegate Bar and further mocked with the placement of a paper crown. Less than forty pages, it is chancy to say this is an evening’s read, as I’m unsure how dense the writing is or is not, or how much reflection might be involved. Nevertheless, it strikes me as a must-read piece, and I look forward to adding it to my collection. Note: Upon searching for the poem online, I saw that it appears only to be available as an e-book. However, I did stumble upon a notation that it was to be included in a collection: Conisbrough Tales: A Canterbury Tales for Conisbrough by Christopher Webster, Bard of Burgh Conan. 

Previous Browsing Books Entry:

35 + Books Everyone Lies about Having Read

Book Release Announcement – The Road Not Travelled: Alternative Tales of the Wars of the Roses

It is a simply beautiful day outside and I’m even happier than that because I have a fabulous announcement to make.

I am so proud and humbled to be part of a fantastic group of writers recruited by author Joanne Larner to contribute to an alternative historical fiction short story anthology set in the Wars of the Roses era. Each author looks at a specific moment in this period of time and explores circumstances had they been altered a bit, or had some historical figure made a choice different to what they actually did in history. 

Joanne provides a great example: “[W]hat if Richard’s father, Richard Duke of York, had not been killed at Wakefield but had defeated Margaret of Anjou’s army and claimed the throne (HE would have then become Richard III).” 

She named the book The Road Not Travelled, a nod to the times in life when a fork in the road appears and remains unchosen. In our stories, that side of the various branches are traveled, and we see what might have happened had time marched forward on those bifurcations. One single decision, one momentary happenstance can transform someone’s entire life and that life, history. How might history had played out if we spoke of Richard III, formerly the Duke of York, and his Queen Cecily? We might never have heard much of the younger Richard Plantagenet, or he might have risen to great heights indeed. Would he have been influential in laws to benefit English society that later informed our own? Would the United States even have been founded? Would there be a Shakespeare? 

I feel so lucky to be part of such a fabulous writing group of individuals from so many walks of life and various parts of the world, all with this one passion in common, to put together such an anthology. I’m also absolutely chuffed—as the English like to say—to have had my story copyread by two skilled editors with fantastic observations and wonderful constructive criticism to help make it the best it can be. I’m really grateful to them both, as well as to Jo, under whose eagle eye it will pass for a final exam. 

To think I never would have begun this journey had I not chosen one particular pathway—out of sheer curiosity, mind you—by reading a book about Richard III, one I had no intention of following up on. I did, in fact, do just that, owing to my great surprise at the outright bias plaguing the entire piece of work, frequently finding myself re-surprised at why it even mattered to me – and yet it did. Once I knew more about Richard, I understood he cared about the people whom he served as king, and I believe, despite his tragic end all too soon, echoes of this consideration passed down through time, perhaps even touching our own age.

I recall feeling awe and admiration at his fighting abilities and the courage he displayed, even when he might have experienced intense pain from the scoliosis he’d suffered from since, probably, adolescence. While such a condition never affected me personally, I did know someone in elementary school who’d had to wear a back brace to correct her own curvature. Of course, this means nothing to my own situations in life, but it left some sort of imprint on me, I suppose, given that I remember my classmate’s struggle. Other contributing factors were the back issues I had following injuries sustained in a car accident, an experience of my own that later enabled me to thoughtfully consider Richard’s experience. On some days I struggled to stand up in the morning; Richard took it to a battlefield and fought for his country. 

So it is with great pleasure to also say here that the book will be sold in aid of the Scoliosis Association UK

The publishing aim is July 6, the 538th anniversary of Richard III’s coronation. Also hoped for is the ability to pre-order very soon – watch this space because I will most definitely be announcing news as I receive it!

Oh! My story is called “Episodes in the Life of King Richard III,” and I hope you will enjoy it – and the others – come July.

Click here for a sneak peak at the cover for

The Road Not Travelled,

drawn by talented artist Riikka Nikko.

My Tottering TBR: A New Life for Neglected Books

We all know what it’s like to sustain a TBR that gets bigger, then periodically smaller, then smaller, maybe a bit bigger, then smaller, and so on. What about the TBR that simply seems only to grow out of all proportion? You know, like when you leave the wonderful bookstore carrying a delightfully heavy bag filled with new titles, but have yet to finish reading so many at home that you already own? This type of TBR finds itself, well, more neglected than actually maintained, even though we keep our volumes dusted and arranged in an appealing manner and smell them on a reasonably regular basis. 

What about TBRs born on various docs or even lovely tablets, hanging around the house, found at a later date, maybe even [*grimace*] yeeeeeeears later? Would you say this is neglect? What if books were indeed steadily being read and discussed, but just not these? Is it possible to borrow a book from the library more than ten times but never read it, finally purchase the book and then find, five years later, it remains unread? (Might anyone guess how I came up with that particular scenario?) 

I suppose there are all sort of possibilities for how a pile might find itself left behind, its only company the other unfortunate books celebrated at purchase and then left alone when life gets too packed full of other obligations. In the case of the following titles, which I compiled in 2015 (I know, I know), most were simply overtaken by life, though I do remember well select titles. Food at Sea, for example, came home with me a number of times before I found it at a library book sale. However, time went by and, because I have a habit of shifting furniture, as well as by necessity storing and un-storing items, including books, this one may have fallen sad victim to whatever causes very visible objects to simply disappear. I had forgotten about it until I discovered this list, and even stopped typing to go look for it.

Some titles might still be patiently waiting on my shelf, while others are ones I’ve never actually owned, but saw spoken of somewhere and really wanted to read. I no longer remember how I came to know about others, such The Sleeping Dictionary, which utterly fell off my radar until I happened once more upon this list. Re-reading the blurb*, I decided it surely must stay with me. There are a few others I’d collected as I saw them reviewed, in the library, at the bookstore and wherever else the bread crumbs might have lead me, and I share them below. I’d still really love to read these, and hope you are getting into the groove of your neglected TBR ~


Food in History by Reay Tannahill (Accidental find while browsing a used book store)

“An enthralling world history of food from prehistoric times to the present. A favorite of gastronomes and history buffs alike, Food in History is packed with intriguing information, lore, and startling insights–like what cinnamon had to do with the discovery of America, and how food has influenced population growth and urban expansion.”

Cinnamon is linked to the discovery of America? (I bet he answer is inside!)

The Sleeping Dictionary by Sujata Massey (My son brought it home for me from one of his library excursions)

“In 1930, a great ocean wave blots out a Bengali village, leaving only one survivor, a young girl. As a maidservant in a British boarding school, Pom is renamed Sarah and discovers her gift for languages. Her private dreams almost die when she arrives in Kharagpur and is recruited into a secretive, decadent world. Eventually, she lands in Calcutta, renames herself Kamala, and creates a new life rich in books and friends. But although success and even love seem within reach, she remains trapped by what she is . . . and is not. As India struggles to throw off imperial rule, Kamala uses her hard-won skills—for secrecy, languages, and reading the unspoken gestures of those around her—to fight for her country’s freedom and her own happiness.”

Food at Sea: Shipboard Cuisine from Ancient to Modern Times by Simon Spalding (Discovered in library’s new non-fiction)

Food at Sea: Shipboard Cuisine from Ancient to Modern Times traces the preservation, preparation, and consumption of food at sea, over a period of several thousand years, and in a variety of cultures. The book traces the development of cooking aboard in ancient and medieval times, through the development of seafaring traditions of storing and preparing food on the world’s seas and oceans.
Following a largely chronological format, Simon Spalding shows how the raw materials, cooking and eating equipments, and methods of preparation of seafarers have both reflected the shoreside practices of their cultures, and differed from them. The economies of whole countries have developed around foods that could survive long trips by sea, and new technologies have evolved to expand the available food choices at sea.

Changes in ship construction and propulsion have compelled changes in food at sea, and Spalding’s book explores these changes in cargo ships, passenger ships, warships, and other types over the centuries in fascinating depth of detail. Selected passages from songs and poems, quotes from seafarers famous and obscure, and new insights into culinary history all add spice to the tale.”

Galileo’s Telescope by Massimo Bucciantini, Michele Camerota and Franco Guidice and translated by Catherine Bolton (Scored when prowling library new non-fiction)

“Between 1608 and 1610 the canopy of the night sky was ripped open by an object created almost by accident: a cylinder with lenses at both ends. Galileo’s Telescope tells how this ingenious device evolved into a precision instrument that would transcend the limits of human vision and transform humanity’s view of its place in the cosmos.”

Introducing Infinity: A Graphic Guide by Brian Clegg & Oliver Pugh (Happened upon in the library’s physics stacks)

“A brand new graphic guide from Brian Clegg, author of the best-selling Inflight Science, Introducing Infinity will teach you all you need to know about this big idea, from mathematicians driven mad by transfinite numbers to the ancient Greeks who drowned the man that discovered an endless number.”

*All blurbs from Amazon unless otherwise indicated

Weird Wednesday: It’s St. Patrick’s Day – Be Sure to Don Your Blue!

Good day! We are delighted to welcome you to “Weird Wednesday,” a joint series, partnered with our friends at Layered Pages, that explores the quirky side of our universe. Presently many people across the world cannot access this fabulous place, and even in the best of times we often pass so much by in our haste to get wherever it is we may be headed. So sit down, relax a bit and allow us to bring some of our explorations to you. Here you may find things funny, outrageous, marvelous, fascinating, out of this world! Feel free to suggest topics and be sure to comment below and click to follow the blog. We’ll be having contests and lots of great content coming up, so be sure to stay tuned!

Over the years I’ve heard a lot of Irish people scorn American habits that supposedly reflect Irish ways or traditions, anywhere from corned beef cabbage to wearing o’ the green. “’Shannon,’” a Dubliner once told me, “is a name only Americans label their children with. This is not a truly Irish thing to do.” (Never mind that one of the nation’s busiest airports is called Sionainne, Irish for Shannon!) Well, did you know that even the St. Patrick’s Day celebration, which is yuuuuuuuuuge in America, is among that list of things the Irish don’t actually do? OK, they do it now, thanks to the realization that St. Patrick’s Day could be a great way to earn oodles of tourism dollars (among other reasons), but this fun and wonderful day, commemorating the life of St Patrick, is actually an invention of Ireland-loving Americans and immigrant Irish.

St. Benin’s Church, Kilbennan, County Galway, Ireland (Image courtesy Andreas F. Borchert, via Wikimedia)

Many people know these days that St. Patrick, famous for ridding Ireland of snakes and bringing Christianity to the island, wasn’t actually Irish. Additionally, the color originally associated with his day was blue, but because he utilized the shamrock, a three-leafed clover once considered a sacred plant, to teach about the Holy Trinity, the association with green caught on.

Following are some more fun facts about this special day, now beloved the world over, thanks to the Irish diaspora as well as the friendly relationship Ireland has with many nations. It’s not difficult to admire the beauty of Ireland, so it’s also not really a surprise that internationally so many people have adopted many of the traditions that grew from the American St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. On March 17, we’re all a little Irish!

  • While there seem to be some differences on the record as to when or who started St. Patrick’s Day parades, this one stands out: the 1601 celebration in St. Augustine, Florida, then a Spanish colony, was organized by an Irish cleric stationed there. Later celebrations sprang up in places such as Boston (famous today for its Irish population) and New York City, where Irish soldiers, immigrants and other ordinary Americans continued the tradition.
  • Research indicates there have never actually been snakes in Ireland: the water surrounding the island is partly responsible, as well as the last glacial period and weather too cold for such reptiles.
  • St. Paddy’s Day, as it is affectionately known in America, is widely seen the world over as a drinking holiday, but the day was once marked as a solemn one in which pubs across Ireland were closed to show respect to the saint. In the 1970s this changed, and the thing to do was attend mass in the morning and celebrate the rest of the day. If the holiday fell on Friday, the day’s non-meat restriction was lifted. Since St. Patrick’s Day falls during Lent, the days following the celebration were a return to Lenten observations.
  • The tradition of corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day is an American innovation. Back home, Irish tended toward ham and cabbage, but Irish immigrants, notably in Lower Manhattan, many of whom lived in abject poverty, purchased cheap corned beef off returning trade ships. They boiled the meat three times to remove the brine, the last go round adding the cabbage, presumably to infuse the flavor.
  • Relics of St. Patrick—the shrine of his jaw and a tooth—can be found today in the Dublin Museum, and his copy of the four gospels at the Royal Irish Academy.

More weird and wonderful facts about St. Patrick and his day, as well as history of the lovely island he made home, may be found here, here and here! It’s one of the most fun rabbit holes you may ever find yourself going down, and it may take a while, so perhaps grab a refreshment—green, if possible—and top o’ the morning to you!

St. Patrick’s Day is now celebrated in many nations across the world. Above, one of the annual celebrations held in Moscow, a parade at Old Arbat. (Image courtesy Wikimedia)

Previous WW

And check out Stephanie’s  WW at Layered Pages!!

Click to like and follow the blog, and be sure to follow and check out more content at our developing Instagram and new Twitter

Cover Crush: The Flower of Chivalry by Georges Duby

I first heard William Marshal’s name when I was about ten years old, though didn’t learn much about him, perhaps because our lessons at that time focused on Magna Carta, as opposed to individual figures. I wasn’t a gigantic history buff back then, though the medieval captured my attention on any day and I loved to listen to tales of jousting knights, well-dressed horses and beautiful standards that fluttered in the breeze. This sort of perspective lent very well to the cover of Georges Duby’s William Marshal: The Flower of Chivalry, which I think I first saw when I was perhaps fourteen or so. I have always liked it, this lovely cover image, registering various thoughts throughout time as to why something was placed or created as it was. Quite recently I began to put the pieces, in my head, together in a more formal, specific sense, beyond just that it is a beautifully constructed piece of art. We are so frequently told not to judge a book by its cover, though this is exactly what we do, and publishers know it. Nothing on a cover is accidental; it is created to attract particular attention, which this one does with grace and style.

Designed by Paul Gamarello with hand lettering by James Lebbad, this cover is a PR dream – the background pink and red horses are within the family of color most able to efficiently capture the human eye. Once the attention has been roped in, the clearly medieval image, Codex of 1028 A.D. from the Encyclopedia of Mauro Rabano, is one of action and pairs with the energy, passion and danger of the red horses. Lest it evoke a too-strong perception of brutality, the muted, rosy pink tempers this, with its feminine and romantic feel. Here is where the lettering also joins the duty roster, with its font evocative of a flowering vine, a visual to carry on the title’s floral theme. Its teal also contrasts remarkably with the background pink, even helping to bring out the medieval manuscript lettering of the more distant background, conjuring more of the Middle Ages that many are familiar with and even admire. The variety of lettering takes it all one step further by linking to the playfulness associated with pink and forming a smaller O in between the L and W of Flower, sort of superscripted, bestowing upon it a lively, spirited sort of feel matched only by the dot in the center of of’s O, perhaps to remind that even the serious Middle Ages had a frisky side to it. We don’t often see this in the many drawings we are shown in school, the style of which is also not quite that of this cover’s. Like many of its day, this battle drawing lacks depth, but with its round-headed horses and soldiers that appear to be of more modest stature, it doesn’t strike the eye as quite so distant. This could also be because we see their faces, unlike so many other drawings, which show helmeted knights, whose thoughts, intentions, worries and dreams—their humanity—we so often cannot look into on so many images. Here we can gaze upon their being to get a better idea that they are not quite so distant or different to us as we often are led to believe.

Book Information and Blurb:

 William Marshal: The Flower of Chivalry by Georges Duby

Published 1984 as Guillaume le Maréschal by Librairie Arthéme Fayard

Translated from the French by Richard Howard, 1985, Pantheon

Georges Duby, one of this century’s great medieval historians, has brought to life with exceptional brilliance and imagination William Marshal, adviser to the Plantagenets, knight extraordinaire, the flower of chivalry. A marvel of historical reconstruction, William Marshal is based on a biographical poem written in the thirteenth century, and offers an evocation of chivalric life—the contests and tournaments, the rites of war, the daily details of medieval existence—unlike any we have ever seen.

“Behind the silhouette of his hero, Georges Duby re-creates the whole theater of chivalry—the splendor of its rituals and its decorum, the strength of its moral code. Through this code, to which William Marshal clings with all his strength, all his immense energy, Duby tells us of the last glories before its decline, the vestiges of a world coming to an end, and we quickly understand that the best of the knights will also soon be the last.” –Le Nouvel Observateur

Previous Cover Crush 

Click to like and follow the blog, and be sure to follow and check out more content at our developing Instagram and new Twitter

Layered Pages also does Cover Crushes

Browsing Books: 35 + Books Everyone Lies About Having Read

People lie about reading books!!??

Ha ha, yes, books seem to be nearly a number one topic to lie about, and what’s even funnier is that so many totally dig in even when their discussions begins to reveal signs of major fibbery, such as buzz words or phrases that come off as parroted without the ability to elaborate, or being unable to talk even a little bit about what they liked or didn’t about a particular story.

Books also seem to be one of the best topics for quickly making one’s way into a rabbit hole, and this interweb excursion was no exception. I came across a page called  “35 + Books Everyone Lies about Having Read.”

It turns out there are waaaay more than thirty-five here, so apparently lying about numbers is a thing as well. OK, so it says “+” but when the list just keeps going with no apparent end, the “35” becomes  a little misleading. No worries, it was fun looking through them anyway, and I decided to share some because I wanted to chatter about them a little. Of course, when you see the list, you’ll understand why I had a limitation, which I decided to be fifteen. I also realized that if I chose titles I really loved, I’d end up with a list of books that would be little more than reading recommendations, with no added color, funny memories, poignant call backs or any of those associations that come with remembering the background behind books in your past.

I may do this again, but for now we’ll see where it takes us. I wonder what books on this list you all have read, and what memories they kick up?

And without further ado, the fifteen, with the titles I’ve read in green font~

To Kill a Mockingbird* (Harper Lee) † – I’ve heard people say it’s overrated. That may or may not be true, I only know that I read it in elementary school, and remember very little. I believe I was in sixth grade (I remember the classroom), and at that point in our lives I don’t think was too young to be teaching us about the book’s subject matter, so I’m wondering if the style didn’t really suit me. Or maybe I was just a lazy reader. In fourth grade we were required to summarize book reports on those giant index cards, and I recall at least one book I liked (The Cricket in Times Square), though toward the enterprise as a whole I must have been mostly indifferent, because I don’t recall any great love of picking up a book. In fifth grade The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe pretty much rocked my world, though I still have no recall for rushing home to be able to read (although Nancy Drew might have been at about that time). To be honest, I never really loved school itself until about seventh grade (or was it eighth?) English class, so while the message was important, I might have just been unready for the vehicle in which it was delivered.

Diary of a Young Girl* (Anne Frank) † – Eighth grade English class covered this book and its context in great measure. Our teacher was Jewish and when I look back at this time I marvel at how she was able to present all this as objectively as she did. It definitely played a role in my later choice (in high school) to choose World War II as my specific historical era of concentration (everyone had to choose one), and after graduation I continued to read oodles of books about it, complete with topics that shot off in many directions, including those such as Hans and Sophie Scholl, nucleus of an anti-Hitler group called the White Rose, who remain an inspiration to me today.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer* (Mark Twain) Oh my gosh I love this book! I can still remember our seventh-grade English teacher beginning her discussion about this story, which I was sure I would hate, probably because I perceived it as a book for boys. She read most, or perhaps even all, of it aloud to us, doing the voices really well and inserting perfectly co-ordinated commentary at key moments. I didn’t love in Huckleberry Finn, quite so much, which really bummed me out because the love I had for Tom Sawyer was so unusual for me—as I said, I hadn’t been a great lover of books at that point.

 Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (J.K. Rowling) Read it! Who hasn’t? Well, I know a lot of people aren’t into Harry, which I just don’t get. Who knows, maybe they say the same about my ideas re: vampires, but whatever the case, I have read and re-read this series multiple times, including just recently. I can still remember my sweet little Turtle dumpling at three years old, the day after we had gone out at midnight to collect the newest—I think it was the last book, and he was still excited about “livin’ life large,” being out so late the night before. He was sitting up on my bed, his adorable little legs stretched out in front of him and pleading with me, “Please, Mummy, please, can we speed up our reading lessons, I want to read this book by myself soooooo baaaaaad!” Heh heh, yeah, he called me “Mummy” back then. Not really sure why, but it was kinda cute.

Lord of the Flies (William Golding) – Heard of it, sounds boring, read the blurb, completely uninterested, change my mind.

Of Mice and Men (John Steinbeck) – This is the book set in the dustbowl era, is it not? Jeez, I’ll  feel really stupid if I’m wrong about that! I have no clue what it’s about but I do recall wanting to read it not too many years ago. Push me, somebody!

The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald) – Ohhhh, I own it but haven’t yet read it. Someone recommended it to me and in a recent re-read of Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran she discusses going over it with her students. It doe sound a bit mid-century-ish, a time from when not many authors really grab my attention and it even seems rather dry. But I’m game for this particular one because the discussion amongst Nafisi’s students—whose fight for the freedom to discuss literature as mature adults made me weep, for their own situation and the idiotic descent my own country is engaging—brought to the fore angles that are at play today. I’ve never met Nafisi’s students, but I love them, and feel I owe it to them to read a book they fought to hard for their own right to read—a fight that may one day even favor our own similar struggle, brought on if we don’t start acting like adults once more, capable and willing to discuss challenging ideas.

The Scarlet Letter (Nathaniel Hawthorne)Oh gads, yeah. I believe it was sixth grade? I remember our teacher, Mrs. Smith, who had beautiful black and silver hair, and she was the first teacher who really made the effort to get students to be aware teachers were normal beings just like us. Sometimes she got tongue tied when she read aloud, but just kept going, which also cued us into the idea that, wow, teachers aren’t perfect creatures either! We loved her all the more for it. Anyway, in college I built up a beautiful collection of Hawthorne for my at-home library, though I no longer have them. Lost to a thief, sadly.

1984* (George Orwell)I remember watching the movie long after I had read the book, going into it thinking, “Really, I just remember a razor shortage. Nothing else.” If memory serves, they didn’t mention that in the film, but Julia had hairy armpits, which I guess was meant to hint at that tidbit. I wasn’t aware at the time of anything called dystopian fiction, and when I later learned what that genre was, it never really occurred to me to remember 1984 as under its umbrella. In fact, for a very long time I avoided it because, truth be told, it’s a little terrifying to contemplate living the lives some of these books depict.

The Lord of the Rings (J. R. R. Tolkien)Never read it, which surprises my son to no end, given how much I love Narnia. I fell asleep watching the first film and have had an instinctive aversion to it since then. He’s slowly working on talking me away from that, so we’ll see where this leads.

The BibleI’m embarrassed to confess I’ve never read the whole book cover to cover. Also, that some of it is so very dense I get discouraged. I don’t know all the history or culture of the different eras, either, so at times something indicative of some particular circumstance flies right over my head. I do try to read a little every day, though, and confess I get hung up reading John a lot. He’s my fave.

Catcher in the Rye* (J.D. Salinger)This story is an example of why we should give books a second chance, as I once hated it with a passion. Then I was shamed into re-reading it and, although it still didn’t get me super excited, I could appreciate it a lot more than I did when I first read it, which was in eighth grade.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll)I no longer recall what brought me to be as obsessed with Alice and Lewis Carroll as as I was in my young years. Nevertheless I love this book. I love this book. Did I mention how much I love this book? Was absolutely addicted to it and everything Alice as a child and, to a certain extent, still am. My poetry and even drawings I once did were heavily influenced by it. Carroll has lots of other offerings as well, so especially for those who only know about Alice, I highly recommend you check out his other work. There’s also a very fascinating book by Anne Clark, The Real Alice, that lays out the actual lives of the historical people, how they knew each other, what their relationships were like and how and where they got on in life. Totally not to miss. By the way, on a visit to New York City I saw a shop, whose name I forget, that is everything and anything Alice: of course tea sets, but also playing cards, stationary, bed sheets, backpacks, decorative boxes, dishes, shoelaces, tissues, scarves, hats, posters, lamps, tee shirts, puzzles, lockets, soft toys, dolls, pillows, mirrors, clocks, spoons, bookmarks, herbal teas, diaries, glasses, candles, make-up brushes, cake toppers, tapestries, stickers, socks, blankets, night lights and so much more that you could imagine!

Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)Avoided it for years. Why? Because I’m stupid, that’s why! I could probably have been talked into reading it but there were too many others before it on my list of “want to read.” Then I saw the movie a couple of years ago and realized what I’d been missing. I was instantly captured. I now own the book and it’s on my 2021 Reading Challenge list. I even want to sew little Little Women clothes for dolls and have collected a few Little Women themed books that my son jokes are really just fan fiction.

The Odyssey* (Homer)Not a great big fan of The Iliad, though it was ok. But when I got to The Odyssey I could barely stop reading. It is very thrilling and I know some of my poetry came from this. When my son was little he, like everyone else, loved to be told a story, and did make a request one day in the car. I told him the cyclops portion and he was so intrigued he wanted immediately to go to the library to find a book with more! It turned out Mary Pope Osborne did indeed have a kids’ edition of The Odyssey (abridged, perhaps; I don’t recall). I loved the translation even better than how I told it: for instance, when the other cyclops demand, “Who did this to you?” the blinded one says, “No man did this.” (I had said “nobody.”) “Well,” they conclude, “if no man did this, then it must be the gods’ doing and therefore is meant to be.” (or something like that – the point is the difference between “no man” and “no one/nobody”). I was so charmed by it!

Click to like and follow the blog, and be sure to follow and check out more content at our developing Instagram and new Twitter

I Wouldn’t Dream of It

Well, we’ve gone all week without a blog entry and here we are on Saturday morning, which is a marvelous place to be. This past week was a little more taxing than others—learning some new stuff at work (I like it), working with a teenager doing school from home (he loathes it) and trying to keep it all in order: my mind, my house, thoughts about where I might be going from one hour to the next. Friday was bookended with two different types of weariness, and all day I just wanted it to be over. It actually wasn’t a bad day—in fact, there’d been marked improvement by this last business/school day—but I was just so tired that the whole time I dreamed of going home and kicking my feet up.

Impression, Sunrise, 1872, by Claude Monet (Image courtesy Wikimedia)

As  indicated earlier, my day began with fatigue—actually a rather strong grogginess, which is rather unusual; the last time I remember opening my eyes to such a state was when I used one of my melatonin tablets, which was maybe a year or two ago. But you know, it could have been related to the really bizarre dream I had.

At around 03:00 (Thursday night-Friday morning) I woke up, which is not unusual, and I remember thinking it was such and such time, which it was. Unfortunately, it was the opposite of when you wake up and see you have glorious hours and hours of sleep ahead of you. Even then I felt a weighty sleepiness on myself, and recall sighing what now reminds me of the sort of sigh you hear people in the movies sigh when they’ve somehow been wronged and you, the movie watcher are like, “How do they just sigh? I’d be screaming and pulling hair!” But at that moment the sigh reminded me of those that ghosts emit and I recall thinking, Who cares. Not Who cares? Just Who cares. I was far too tired for such exertion.

When next I opened my eyes, they were so heavy I could barely lift them, and I was also super irritable. I had just been in a room, some room in an institutional type of setting, with three or four other people, all males whom I knew to be military types, but not because they had the obvious look, like the buzz cut or silver eyeglasses. These men all wore civilian clothing, laughed a lot, had laid back attitudes and I seemed to know them, as if we worked together, perhaps. Also: this room was in a building about ninety miles from Iran.

Someone was buzzing to be let in, and it fell to me to go do it. I was reluctant, staggering ever so slowly as my colleagues urged me on with their words, assorted ranges of laughter punctuating their prodding. It annoyed me not only that I had to go open the door for them, but that to do it I had to do something more than just make that movement. As I neared the side this door was on, I grumpily asked the men how to do it. “What the hell do I have to do to open this wretched thing?” Laughing, they explained, and it turned out there was a code phrase and it had to be spoken into an intercom. “Why do I have to say anything into a speaker? It’s not me trying to be let in. I’m already in!” My increasingly sour mood apparent, they and those wanting in laughed, not unlike the way I might too if I wasn’t so…angry. Why was I so angry?

A Dream of a Girl Before a Sunrise by Karl Bryullov (1830–1833) (Image courtesy Wikimedia)

I don’t know, maybe because, as it turned out, the phrase I had to say was something to do with an expletive and the great toe. I hissed, What? But they just kept laughing. On any other day, I might have joined in, but this one was just too much, though I really wasn’t sure why. But I was quite clear on the reality that the annoying buzzer, like those when people call and say “I’m downstairs!”, wouldn’t stop. I yelled at those outside to knock it off but they paid no heed.

Eventually I slapped at it, trying to make them stop, it stop, anything to relieve me of this infuriating, peculiar entry that seemed to be requiring such a larger effort than it really should. I found myself slapping at anything within my range until I was slapping at my phone, prone and somewhat infuriated as I looked, seeing but unseeing, directly at the phone as it lay next to me on bed, and I hissed once more. Oh my—what the—shit, shut UP!!

 As I settled back down onto the pillow and tried to absorb the utterly bizarre experience, I understood immediately where the buzzer had come from—I have memory of a childhood dream in which an unceasingly ringing telephone became my dream state’s ambulance siren—and even being so close to Iran didn’t entirely puzzle me. I am, after all, interested in that country (especially their poetry); I don’t read about it as much as I used to, but it still happens. Still, though, why? And which bordering nation were we in? Iraq? Perhaps Turkey? I have been re-reading The Chronicles of Narnia lately, having recently finished The Horse and His Boy, which has a decidedly Turkish feel to it, following on from the earlier books’ introduction to the lion Aslan—“aslan” in Turkish means “lion.” Turkish Delight, Jadis, etc. Could that be the source for “ninety miles from Iran”? And how did I know this? No one in the dream told me; it was just something I was aware of.

What  about all those people? Were they actually military, or did I just assume they were because I associated their demeanor with the military people I’ve known? Either way, where in the world did they come from? The room kind of reminded me of a smaller version of our boot camp barracks if it were bunkless, and perhaps a little more green, not quite so much of the very light, mustardy yellow I recall striping along the walls. But I saw the room before I thought of those barracks—seeing it is what brought back the memory, not the other way around. I couldn’t answer any of these questions.

The only thing I knew by the time I left the house for work was that I wanted to write a blog about this very weird dream, and as the morning went by I kept making myself think about it, then wrote down the details on my morning break. The grogginess had, for the most part, faded, but was replaced with a very static-feeling mood receptor; it went neither up nor down with slower measured beats, not even with erratic or extreme ones, like someone who can go from quite upset to very happy in just a few moments. For me, I just sort of emotionally flatlined all day. I was exhausted.

A little anticlimactic, I suppose, but what a very strange dream! Once back home, I was drawn to do a little exploring, which I found to be quite intriguing, though that isn’t a surprise as I’m pretty fascinated with the brain. Specific brain functions, working in conjunction with individual memories, experiences, awareness and so on create a combination not entirely understood by the scientists who study it. Because it is such a large topic, only a small portion of which can be presented, and it truly is so captivating, any kind of discussion on dreams deserves its own entry. Moreover, I’m late to the party again, as pandemic dreaming has already shown itself as a thing: people are dreaming more and theories abound, including those linking the bizarre dreams people have been having to lockdowns. I’m planning to look into this a little more and see what we uncover.

Click to like and follow the blog, and be sure to follow and check out more content at our developing Instagram and new Twitter