Profile for Meks Librarian > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Meks Librarian
Top Reviewer Ranking: 41,869
Helpful Votes: 23

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Meks Librarian "Librarian With Secrets" (Germany)

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6
pixel
Midsomer Murders - The Making of an English Crime Classic by Evans, Jeff ( 2002 )
Midsomer Murders - The Making of an English Crime Classic by Evans, Jeff ( 2002 )

4.0 out of 5 stars For the fans, 22 Aug 2014
Written by Jeff Evans, a true fan of the series, this „Making of“ covers many different aspects of Midsomer Murders and includes a foreword by John Nettles as well as an episode guide for the first 23 episodes.

Although I have not (yet) read any of Caroline Graham’s Inspector Barnaby novels, I found it interesting to read about how – and why – the characters in the TV series partly differ from those in the books. Also, the way a story may work very well in paper but will require some tweaking for a successful transfer to a totally different medium (such as TV) is explained. The process of evolution from the first draft of a script to the finished episode is described, and if anyone has ever doubted the amount of work and effort going into each and every minute we later see on telly, they will understand a lot more after having read this book.

Details matter a lot; for instance, finding the right location can be a big challenge, and every little thing needs checking thoroughly. For example, the name of a fictitious surgeon in an episode must not correspond to any real-life counterpart of the same – or even just similar – name in the area.
While the episode guide will not be the most interesting read for everyone, it provides some background information about the impressive list of guest actors with little snippets of filming memories that I found quite entertaining.

Of course, since the book was published in 2002, long before some major changes occurred (Barnaby’s sergeant was replaced twice; eventually, Barnaby himself retired and was replaced by his “cousin”, who in turn has recently been assigned a new sergeant; Barnaby’s daughter marries, and so on), it seems strange now to read some of the statements that sound as if the main cast was set in stone. But that is natural with a series as long-going as Midsomer Murders, and does not take away from the pleasure of this book.


Midsomer Murders - The Making of an English Crime Classic
Midsomer Murders - The Making of an English Crime Classic
by Jeff Evans
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars From a fan for the fans, 22 Aug 2014
Written by Jeff Evans, a true fan of the series, this „Making of“ covers many different aspects of Midsomer Murders and includes a foreword by John Nettles as well as an episode guide for the first 23 episodes.

Although I have not (yet) read any of Caroline Graham’s Inspector Barnaby novels, I found it interesting to read about how – and why – the characters in the TV series partly differ from those in the books. Also, the way a story may work very well in paper but will require some tweaking for a successful transfer to a totally different medium (such as TV) is explained. The process of evolution from the first draft of a script to the finished episode is described, and if anyone has ever doubted the amount of work and effort going into each and every minute we later see on telly, they will understand a lot more after having read this book.

Details matter a lot; for instance, finding the right location can be a big challenge, and every little thing needs checking thoroughly. For example, the name of a fictitious surgeon in an episode must not correspond to any real-life counterpart of the same – or even just similar – name in the area.
While the episode guide will not be the most interesting read for everyone, it provides some background information about the impressive list of guest actors with little snippets of filming memories that I found quite entertaining.

Of course, since the book was published in 2002, long before some major changes occurred (Barnaby’s sergeant was replaced twice; eventually, Barnaby himself retired and was replaced by his “cousin”, who in turn has recently been assigned a new sergeant; Barnaby’s daughter marries, and so on), it seems strange now to read some of the statements that sound as if the main cast was set in stone. But that is natural with a series as long-going as Midsomer Murders, and does not take away from the pleasure of this book.


Rough Stone Monuments and Their Builders... - Primary Source Edition
Rough Stone Monuments and Their Builders... - Primary Source Edition
by Thomas Eric Peet
Edition: Paperback
Price: 14.51

5.0 out of 5 stars Great Work of Non-Fiction from 1912, 8 Aug 2014
A work of non-fiction first published in 1912, “Rough Stone Monuments and Their Builders” gives an overview of what was the state of knowledge on the subject at that time.

Thomas Eric Peet (1882 - 1934) goes about his topic in a systematic manner, starting by clarifying the meaning and differences of the various megalithic buildings such as dolmen, menhir, cromlech, allée couverte and many more. He presents the various types of monuments by country or region without neglecting the assumed time frames during which they were built and used. Also, he explains why certain assumptions were made, and presents arguments for and against differing theories regarding the origin and purpose of each type. Last but not least, he writes about the builders themselves – what kind of people were they, how did they live and work together, why did they make such enormous efforts.

In all this, he never fails to caution the reader that almost nothing can be proved with absolute certainty, but nearly everything is based on conjecture. He cites the work of colleagues and predecessors and gives a long list for further reading. The book Is richly illustrated and nicely divided into chapters – in short, a very good example of non-fiction, understandable for the interested non-scientist but not beneath the professional reader.

Nowadays we have so many computer-aided methods in archaeology; it is not difficult anymore to date a certain structure and to connect findings from one place with others. But still, If you think about it, a lot of it is guesswork and conjecture – as long as a people has not left behind any written testimony of their times and lives, we can never be entirely sure of our “facts” to be true (and even then they can be questionable. For example, in medieval times it was common practice to greatly exaggerate the number of soldiers and ships a ruler commanded, which makes it necessary to treat documents about battles with caution).

About the author: Wikipedia does not say much about him as a person, but from the dry dates one can assume that he did lead a life dedicated to science, namely Egyptology.


Rough Stone Monuments and Their Builders
Rough Stone Monuments and Their Builders
Price: 0.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Non-Fiction as it should be, 8 Aug 2014
A work of non-fiction first published in 1912, “Rough Stone Monuments and Their Builders” gives an overview of what was the state of knowledge on the subject at that time.

Thomas Eric Peet (1882 - 1934) goes about his topic in a systematic manner, starting by clarifying the meaning and differences of the various megalithic buildings such as dolmen, menhir, cromlech, allée couverte and many more. He presents the various types of monuments by country or region without neglecting the assumed time frames during which they were built and used. Also, he explains why certain assumptions were made, and presents arguments for and against differing theories regarding the origin and purpose of each type. Last but not least, he writes about the builders themselves – what kind of people were they, how did they live and work together, why did they make such enormous efforts.

In all this, he never fails to caution the reader that almost nothing can be proved with absolute certainty, but nearly everything is based on conjecture. He cites the work of colleagues and predecessors and gives a long list for further reading. The book Is richly illustrated and nicely divided into chapters – in short, a very good example of non-fiction, understandable for the interested non-scientist but not beneath the professional reader.

Nowadays we have so many computer-aided methods in archaeology; it is not difficult anymore to date a certain structure and to connect findings from one place with others. But still, If you think about it, a lot of it is guesswork and conjecture – as long as a people has not left behind any written testimony of their times and lives, we can never be entirely sure of our “facts” to be true (and even then they can be questionable. For example, in medieval times it was common practice to greatly exaggerate the number of soldiers and ships a ruler commanded, which makes it necessary to treat documents about battles with caution).

About the author: Wikipedia does not say much about him as a person, but from the dry dates one can assume that he did lead a life dedicated to science, namely Egyptology.


In The Closed Room: A Short Gothic Ghost Story (Gothic Ghost Stories)
In The Closed Room: A Short Gothic Ghost Story (Gothic Ghost Stories)
by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.78

5.0 out of 5 stars Sweetly Sad, or Sadly Sweet?, 4 Aug 2014
„In the Closed Room“ by Frances Hodgson Burnett was first published in 1904. It is relatively short, not exactly the length of a full book, but too long to be seen as a short story. The author probably intended the book originally to be for children (mainly girls) ; it is a ghost story, but never scary, and hardly surprising. Along with "The White People", the review for which you can also find on Amazon, it presents a different genre of the longer stories Frances H. Burnett was so famous for ("Little Lord Fauntleroy" and "The Secret Garden", more than any others).

Synopsis: A little girl grows up with her parents in a working-class environment in New York, where housing conditions are unhealthy and the constant noise of the railway leading past their apartment provides the soundtrack to their everyday (and –night) lives. Nobody else seems to be much affected, but the girl is different: all she longs for is peace and quiet, none of the rough games other children play are for her, and she even looks different from her parents; much more delicate.
One summer, the parents are offered a job as caretakers in a villa by the park. The villa’s owners have left New York because of some unspecified trouble having befallen them, and apparently left in such great haste that the house needs to be put in order. The family move into the spacious servants’ apartment in the basement, and while the husband still goes out to work every day, the wife and her little daughter explore the large, handsome rooms of the house and do the required work. They have access everywhere but one room on the top floor, The Closed Room.
Soon, the little girl starts wandering off on her own, discovering a house so beautiful as she has never seen before, and feeling very much at home in it. She even finds a friend in the house – another little girl, as delicate as herself, and they spend every day playing together. Her mother knows she need not worry; the little girl won’t break anything and always appears in time for her meals.

One evening after her usual playtime somewhere else in the house, the girl shows more than customary affection to her mother. But the next day does not appear to be any different… until the owner of the house makes an unexpected return. The secret of both the Closed Room and the little girl’s playmate are revealed.

I suppose you can pretty much guess the way the story goes without me telling you anymore. I enjoyed reading this in spite of the total lack of surprise; Burnett’s writing is of a quality that allows the reader to easily picture the places and people involved. The story itself is of a sad sweetness (I hesitate calling it bitter-sweet, because there is nothing bitter about it). I wouldn’t call it a “must read”, but it is certainly a nice read. It would be interesting to know how a 10-year-old girl today reacts to the story. I know I would have loved this story as a child.


In the Closed Room
In the Closed Room
Price: 0.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Sadly Sweet, or Sweetly Sad?, 4 Aug 2014
„In the Closed Room“ by Frances Hodgson Burnett was first published in 1904. It is relatively short, not exactly the length of a full book, but too long to be seen as a short story. The author probably intended the book originally to be for children (mainly girls) ; it is a ghost story, but never scary, and hardly surprising. Along with "The White People", the review for which you can also find on Amazon, it presents a different genre of the longer stories Frances H. Burnett was so famous for ("Little Lord Fauntleroy" and "The Secret Garden", more than any others).

Synopsis: A little girl grows up with her parents in a working-class environment in New York, where housing conditions are unhealthy and the constant noise of the railway leading past their apartment provides the soundtrack to their everyday (and –night) lives. Nobody else seems to be much affected, but the girl is different: all she longs for is peace and quiet, none of the rough games other children play are for her, and she even looks different from her parents; much more delicate.
One summer, the parents are offered a job as caretakers in a villa by the park. The villa’s owners have left New York because of some unspecified trouble having befallen them, and apparently left in such great haste that the house needs to be put in order. The family move into the spacious servants’ apartment in the basement, and while the husband still goes out to work every day, the wife and her little daughter explore the large, handsome rooms of the house and do the required work. They have access everywhere but one room on the top floor, The Closed Room.
Soon, the little girl starts wandering off on her own, discovering a house so beautiful as she has never seen before, and feeling very much at home in it. She even finds a friend in the house – another little girl, as delicate as herself, and they spend every day playing together. Her mother knows she need not worry; the little girl won’t break anything and always appears in time for her meals.

One evening after her usual playtime somewhere else in the house, the girl shows more than customary affection to her mother. But the next day does not appear to be any different… until the owner of the house makes an unexpected return. The secret of both the Closed Room and the little girl’s playmate are revealed.

I suppose you can pretty much guess the way the story goes without me telling you anymore. I enjoyed reading this in spite of the total lack of surprise; Burnett’s writing is of a quality that allows the reader to easily picture the places and people involved. The story itself is of a sad sweetness (I hesitate calling it bitter-sweet, because there is nothing bitter about it). I wouldn’t call it a “must read”, but it is certainly a nice read. It would be interesting to know how a 10-year-old girl today reacts to the story. I know I would have loved this story as a child.


Sleeping Arrangements
Sleeping Arrangements
Price: 2.48

3.0 out of 5 stars Very light holiday read, 30 July 2014
Another "Sophie Kinsella writing as Madeleine Wickham" (her real name), the plot of this book is quickly told:
Two very different families - one rich, one a lot less so - are involuntarily thrown together for a week's holiday at a luxurious villa in Spain because the villa's owner has double-booked the place.

Of course, it always makes for interesting scenes and conversations when people who otherwise would never mix are all of a sudden forced to spend time with each other.
Chloe and Philipp both need this holiday to get away from stressful situations at work, which have been affecting their relationship. Hugh and Amanda have no such worries; for Amanda, the biggest problem is to ensure her interior architect uses exactly the right shade of aquamarine for the walls while she is away and cannot supervise in person the redecorating of their home. Hugh tries to get to know his family better - he spends so much time at the office that he hardly sees his two little daughters.
The "poor" couple come with two sons, the rich family have hired a nanny (who will play her own part in making this an unforgettable holiday).

After they all more or less grudgingly accept that they're stuck at the villa for the week, everyone tries to make the best of it. This "best" of course involves a lot of drinking, as always seems to be the case in Sophie Kinsella's books for most of her characters. There are lonely walks to the next village, ending less lonesome than expected; overheard telephone calls in the villa's study and faxes seen by others than the intended recipient; shared meals never eaten; topless sunbathing and the first sexual experience for a teenager.

Two of the four adults have known each other 15 years ago, something neither of their partners know about. How will this secret from the past affect their time at the villa? Are the couples going to stay together, or will things be so upset by the events of the week that nothing will remain as it was before?

After the first few chapters, it is pretty obvious where the story is heading; no huge surprises, not much guessing necessary, which makes for an easy, relaxing read on a summer holiday (in my case, for the hours after work and before lights out).


The Astronaut Wives Club
The Astronaut Wives Club
Price: 3.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Great glimspe into the days of the "Space Race", 25 July 2014
Lily Koppel tells the story of the wives of the first three sets of NASA astronauts, spanning the period from 1959 (when the "Mercury Seven", the first astronauts, were announced) until 1972 (when the Apollo missions ended with the last man leaving the surface of the moon).

A lot has been written about the astronauts and their missions, but this is the first book about their wives. The first seven had no idea what was in store for them when their husbands were chosen out of the many applicants. Up until then, they had been test pilot's wives, moving from base to base with their husbands, raising their children in ever-changing environments, trying to establish new friendships with the other families living on base all the time.

All of a sudden, their husbands were in the limelight - and so were they, gaining celebrity status from one minute to the next. None of the ladies was prepared for this, and nobody did prepare them or help them. They did make a few mistakes at first, but quickly learned, and found they could cope much better with the pressure from being constantly under the public eye when they helped each other.

Of course, there were also the plus sides: meetings with "Jackie" at the White House, balls and dinner parties with a host of Hollywood stars, nice dresses given to them by well-known fashion companies to be worn as living advertisments, dream houses and cars for symbolic amounts of money (such as a corvette for just 1 $ a year).
The price to pay was their privacy; a deal was struck up with LIFE magazine that reporters and photographers would have access to them and their homes nearly 24/7, covering every meal they prepared for their children, every outfit they wore, and every emotion in their faces during launch and mission times.

The second set of astronauts were nominated, and their wives were no better prepared than the first ones. Because there was always a competitive undercurrent between their husbands as to who was going to fly the next mission, the first wives were at first reluctant to welcome the new wives into their circle. Eventually, though, they all became members of the Astronaut Wives Club, being there for each other in times of need.

While flawless All-American families were presented to the world, it often was a different story behind the scenes. There was cheating and alcoholism, coldness and jealousy, and one couple even gave up their separate lives in order to make sure the husband got the job, and moved in together again, hoping their secret would not be found out (it wasn't until long afterwards).
Inevitably, some women became closer friends than others, but whenever their husbands were up there, or when disaster struck and terrible accidents happened, they all put their differences aside and rallied round.

The book ends with a chapter about a reunion of the wives in the mid-1980s. I enjoyed it very much, although I must admit I was a bit disappointed at times with the writing style. Some chapters read like a simple row of paragraphs having little to do with each other, jumping from one wife (or couple) to the next, without a recognizable thread between them. But the overall reading is good, giving what I believe to be an accurate picture of life in "Togethersville", the nickname given to the "space suburb" in Clear Lake City, where most of the astronauts' families lived.


The Astronaut Wives Club
The Astronaut Wives Club
by Lily Koppel
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Great glimpse into the days of the "Space Race", 25 July 2014
Lily Koppel tells the story of the wives of the first three sets of NASA astronauts, spanning the period from 1959 (when the "Mercury Seven", the first astronauts, were announced) until 1972 (when the Apollo missions ended with the last man leaving the surface of the moon).

A lot has been written about the astronauts and their missions, but this is the first book about their wives. The first seven had no idea what was in store for them when their husbands were chosen out of the many applicants. Up until then, they had been test pilot's wives, moving from base to base with their husbands, raising their children in ever-changing environments, trying to establish new friendships with the other families living on base all the time.

All of a sudden, their husbands were in the limelight - and so were they, gaining celebrity status from one minute to the next. None of the ladies was prepared for this, and nobody did prepare them or help them. They did make a few mistakes at first, but quickly learned, and found they could cope much better with the pressure from being constantly under the public eye when they helped each other.

Of course, there were also the plus sides: meetings with "Jackie" at the White House, balls and dinner parties with a host of Hollywood stars, nice dresses given to them by well-known fashion companies to be worn as living advertisments, dream houses and cars for symbolic amounts of money (such as a corvette for just 1 $ a year).
The price to pay was their privacy; a deal was struck up with LIFE magazine that reporters and photographers would have access to them and their homes nearly 24/7, covering every meal they prepared for their children, every outfit they wore, and every emotion in their faces during launch and mission times.

The second set of astronauts were nominated, and their wives were no better prepared than the first ones. Because there was always a competitive undercurrent between their husbands as to who was going to fly the next mission, the first wives were at first reluctant to welcome the new wives into their circle. Eventually, though, they all became members of the Astronaut Wives Club, being there for each other in times of need.

While flawless All-American families were presented to the world, it often was a different story behind the scenes. There was cheating and alcoholism, coldness and jealousy, and one couple even gave up their separate lives in order to make sure the husband got the job, and moved in together again, hoping their secret would not be found out (it wasn't until long afterwards).
Inevitably, some women became closer friends than others, but whenever their husbands were up there, or when disaster struck and terrible accidents happened, they all put their differences aside and rallied round.

The book ends with a chapter about a reunion of the wives in the mid-1980s. I enjoyed it very much, although I must admit I was a bit disappointed at times with the writing style. Some chapters read like a simple row of paragraphs having little to do with each other, jumping from one wife (or couple) to the next, without a recognizable thread between them. But the overall reading is good, giving what I believe to be an accurate picture of life in "Togethersville", the nickname given to the "space suburb" in Clear Lake City, where most of the astronauts' families lived.


A Columbus of Space and Other Science Fiction Stories by Garrett P. Serviss [Annotated] (Civitas Library Classics)
A Columbus of Space and Other Science Fiction Stories by Garrett P. Serviss [Annotated] (Civitas Library Classics)
Price: 1.36

5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Story Well Told, 25 July 2014
A science fiction novel from 1909, this was an action-packed companion on my daily train rides to and from work, a good example of the way imagination and scientific facts (as they were known then) were combined to produce a thrilling story.

The author, Garrett Putnam Serviss (1851-1929), was an American astronomer who produced more scientific publications than works of fiction. He promoted astronomy whereever and whenever he could, and so it is little wonder that he used his talent for explaining scientific facts to ordinary readers for this purpose.

A group of friends travel to Venus in a "car" (the author deliberately avoids calling it a ship) constructed by one of their number, a scientist with a brilliant mind, who - like the author himself - has always been explaining scientific and other complicated facts to his lesser gifted friends. The car runs on nuclear power, and their aim is Venus, because their guide is certain of the planet's habitability.

The description of the inside of the car must be a delight to any Steampunk aficionado out there: comfortable benches upholstered in leather, brass knobs and handles, metal buttons and grills in front of small mouth-shaped openings for the air conditioning, a store of food, tobacco and wine to keep the friends sustained during their voyage, and so on.

At that time, Venus was still thought to rotate in a way that it would always show the same hemisphere to the sun, making it a planet divided into one half of eternal darkness and one of eternal sunshine. That is what the friends find, and of course the inhabitants of the two sides differ accordingly.

They arrive on the dark side, and have some adventures there; but the larger and more adventurous part of the story takes place on the sun side, where they venture later. After having crossed crystal mountains and vast stormy oceans, they reach the land of a people of such a high degree of civilization that spoken language has almost completely been replaced by telepathy. Of course, the scientific leader of the group does not take long to learn that language, and makes many astonishing discoveries.

The adventure wouldn't be an adventure if there wasn't some element of danger, and so the friends soon find they have unwittingly made an enemy who does not rest until he has them nearly destroyed. During their flight, more creatures of the planet are encountered, some of them very terrible and dangerous.

Several times, without wanting it, the friends become responsible for the loss of life on both sides of the planet - a fact they deeply regret. They have not set out to conquer, but to investigate and to satisfy their scientific curiosity, but they bring death and bloodshed, even making their leader exclaim he wished he had never brought them on this voyage.

Eventually, though, the group manages to make their way back to Earth. The story ends on a "mysterious" note: while the others all more or less resume their former lives after about two years of absence, the leader and his car disappear after a little while, and are never heard of again.

I like the way the author describes the landscapes, buildings and inhabitants of Venus, and how he never makes out that humans are superior to anything and anyone, but can learn from others, if they are open-minded.


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6