What does a new work and Italian boy have in common?

When I get the chance, I listen to NPR while I do work at my desk that doesn’t require my undivided attention. This morning I heard this piece about an Italian schoolboy who invented a word on some homework he handed in recently. His teacher marked it as incorrect, as teachers are apt to do, but she wrote him a little message telling him she liked his new word. She also wrote the powers that be in her country and is trying to get his new word put in the dictionary.

Kudos to the teacher!

This is a great illustration of how our language is always changing – etymologist at it’s finest. Besides words that are created for things that didn’t exist 5, 10, 15 years ago such as emoticon or ipad, it shows us that language is anything but stagnant, which can be a challenge to someone like me who edits for a living.

If you want to know the boys new word, check out this piece on NPR: http://www.npr.org/2016/03/04/469149247/italian-schoolboy-invents-new-word

(Imagine from zoroministries.org)

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Published in: on August 5, 2016 at 11:26pm08  Comments (9)  
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Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

This is supposed to be a classic and the movie Apocalypse Now was supposed to have been based on this book, so I thought I’d give it a try

heart of dGenre: fiction

Blurb: (from the audio book jacket) “Acclaimed as one of the great, albeit disturbing, visionary works of Western civilization, Joseph Conrad’s haunting tale dramatizes the ugly realities of British colonial imperialism. Charlie Marlow, a seaman, is sent by an ivory company to retrieve a cargo boat and one of its employees, Mr. Kurtz, who is stranded deep in the heart of the Belgian Congo. Marlow’s  journey up the treacherous, dark river soon becomes a struggle to maintain his own sanity as he witnesses the brutalization of the natives by white traders and discovers the enigmatic Mr. Kurtz. Kurtz, once a genius and the company’s most successful representative, has transformed into an atrocious savage and traded his soul to become ruler of his own horrific sovereignty, free from the conventions of European culture.”

What I liked: That it was short and the narrator, Scott Brick did a wonderful Marlow.

What I didn’t like: I’m not sure who wrote that blurb, but they sold me and whoever else reads this book a bill of goods. What brutalization? who was a atrocious savage…? I’m not sure what book he/she read, but it wasn’t this one. This is one of those “classics” that it is so dull it has to be a classic or it would have gone out of print. Whenever you see “visionary works” beware. I tried to figure out the point of this story but I must be too dull. I just couldn’t do it. I tried, I really did. I listened to the whole thing, thinking I’d get it as some point, but I never did. This is one of those books that you pick apart in a literature class because otherwise there would be no point in reading it. I never saw Apocalypse Now – I heard it was very brutal and I’m not into brutal – so I’m not sure what Francis F. Coppola was smoking when he adapted his movie from this book, but it must have been good stuff.

Rating: 1/5

The Inn at Rose Harbor by Debbie Macomber and Predator by Patricia Cornwell

I am putting these reviews together because of the stark differences in these two books and the similarities.

Genres:  Macomber – (romantic?) fiction, Cornwell – murder mystery

Blurbs: (Goodreads) Macomber: Jo Marie Rose first arrives in Cedar Cove seeking a sense of peace and a fresh start. Coping with the death of her husband, she purchases a local bed-and-breakfast—the newly christened Rose Harbor Inn—ready to begin her life anew. Yet the inn holds more surprises than Jo Marie can imagine.

Her first guest is Joshua Weaver, who has come home to care for his ailing stepfather. The two have never seen eye to eye, and Joshua has little hope that they can reconcile their differences. But a long-lost acquaintance from Joshua’s high school days proves to him that forgiveness is never out of reach and love can bloom even where it’s least expected.

The other guest is Abby Kincaid, who has returned to Cedar Cove to attend her brother’s wedding. Back for the first time in twenty years, she almost wishes she hadn’t come, the picturesque town harboring painful memories from her past. And while Abby reconnects with family and old friends, she realizes she can only move on if she truly allows herself to let go.

Cornwell: Scarpetta, now freelancing with the National Forensic Academy in Florida, digs into a case more bizarre than any she has ever faced, one that has produced not only unusual physical evidence, but also tantalizing clues about the inner workings of an extremely cunning and criminal mind.

She and her team — Pete Marino, Benton Wesley, and her niece, Lucy — track the odd connections between several horrific crimes and the people who are the likely suspects. As one psychopath, safely behind bars and the subject of a classified scientific study at a Harvard-affiliated psychiatric hospital, teases Scarpetta with tips that could be fact — or fantasy — the number of killers on the loose seems to multiply. Are these events related or merely random? And what can the study of one man’s brain tell them about the methods of a psychopath still lurking in the shadows?

What didn’t like: I read Predator first and was so disturbed by it that I wanted to pick something more low key to listen to next, and I picked just the book. The Inn at Rose Harbor is so low key and idyllic that it was not very interesting to listen to. Don’t get me wrong, I like low key. I really enjoy Jane Karon’s Medford series (I’ve read 2 or 3 of those) but the characters in Karon’s stories seem more real, more fleshed out and the endings not always so boxed up with a pretty bow that you could see coming a mile away. Where “pretty bow” is as far from Predator as any book I have read. It was so horrific and graphic it almost seemed it was written for people who enjoy that short of  lunacy in real life. I would say Cornwell’s writing was better – less stilted, less of the passive voice than Macomber’s. But I had a hard time following Cornwell’s story line at times with it switching back and forth between different points of view. Macomber does the same switching but since the story is easier to follow, I got lost less often.

What I liked: I was looking for low key with Macomber’s book and I got it. It was a sweet story with lots of happy endings. Lorelei King narrated it and did a wonderful job. Predator was well written overall with a good plot and the nastiest characters I’ve read in a long time (thank goodness) so she did well with that. I also couldn’t guess who the bad guy was so the ending was a surprise.

Rating: 3/5 for both with the caveat that Predator was the better written story but too disturbing for me to like.

Envy by Sandra Brown

envyI picked up this audio book because I really enjoyed the last Sandra Brown book I read (Rainwater). This one…

Genre: fiction

Blurb: (from Goodreads) Living on a remote island under an assumed name, novelist Parker Evans guards his secrets well. Fascinated by this reclusive genius, publisher Maris Matherly-Reed decides to pursue him. But this new project threatens an old commitment, a commitment at the very center of her life. 

What I didn’t like: Compared to Rainwater, this wasn’t half the book that was. The plot was a little thin – the main bad guy (Todd, M’s husband) was a bit too stupid for my taste. He kept thinking his villainous plans would work, even after his wife caught him cheating, and he threatened her.  It bothered me that M fell for the crude — character. It’s a bit hard to understand how an educated, savvy business woman would do that, but I guess it could happen. I also thought Brown made him – the supposed good guy in the story – too crude. A bit crude, sure, but not as raunchy as she made him. The other thing that bothered me is the sex in the book, mostly because I wasn’t expecting it. Neither the back audio blurb nor the blurb you read above give you any idea of this. And having read Brown’s Rainwater before this, I wouldn’t have expected it from this author. It seems more like a book about the act of sex with a revenge story as a back drop vs the other way around. Plus when Parker Evans is injured in the ocean as badly as he was injured, he would have bled out and died if the sharks didn’t get to him first (if there are sharks around the Florida Keys). And on a personal note:  as a writer, I don’t like to read books about writing. I use reading as an escape, and reading about writing is not an escape for me.

What I liked: Not a whole lot, as you can see from above. It has good dialogue and flows well even with a thin plot at times, but I was expecting more of a story after reading Rainwater before this one. If you like to read sex scenes, Brown does a good job with those and there is plenty of them throughout the book, but I didn’t pick this book up looking for that. Victor Slezak did the narration for this audio book and he did a fine job. I wonder how he kept his cool through all those sex scenes!

Rating: 2/5

The Plague of Doves by Louise Edrich

plaqueI picked this out of a hat. I had never read any of Edrich’s stuff before.

Genre: fiction

Blurb:  (goodreads) The unsolved murder of a farm family still haunts the white small town of Pluto, North Dakota, generations after the vengeance exacted and the distortions of fact transformed the lives of Ojibwe living on the nearby reservation.

Part Ojibwe, part white, Evelina Harp is an ambitious young girl prone to falling hopelessly in love. Mooshum, Evelina’s grandfather, is a repository of family and tribal history with an all-too-intimate knowledge of the violent past. And Judge Antone Bazil Coutts, who bears witness, understands the weight of historical injustice better than anyone. Through the distinct and winning voices of three unforgettable narrators, the collective stories of two interwoven communities ultimately come together to reveal a final wrenching truth.

What I liked: The writing is wonderful, poetic, inspiring as a writer, and  just lovely. The story is intriguing… in places. The beginning story of the young girl, Evelina and her interesting grandfather, who like many elders, has a story to tell gets you to want to learn more.

What I didn’t like: Unfortunately Erdrich doesn’t stay with that initial story. She brings it back later, but there are confusing things in between. You find out that these other people and stories ultimately mean something but I think the story would have been wonderful if Louise could have made the transitions between the different people’s stories more understandable, more logical. She does bring the stories together at the end, but the end seems anti-climactic. It left me thinking: what was she trying to get across in this story? I listened to this and the narration switched between Peter Francis James and Kathleen McInerney. They both do a good job, I just prefer one narrator or a group of narrators that play a specific character. I get used to hearing one voice and it is startling for me when the switch happens. Oh well.

Rating: 3.5/5

Dead Man’s Chest by Kerry Greenwood

dead man's chestGenre: Murder mystery, a Phryne Fisher mystery (narrated by Stephanie Daniel)

Blurb: (from Goodreads) Phryne Fisher needs a rest. It’s summer. She packs up her family and moves to Queenscliff, a quiet watering place on the coast. Where she meets with smugglers, pirate treasure and some very interesting surrealists, including a parrot called Pussykins. What is the mysterious Madame Selavey hiding? Where are the Johnsons, who were supposed to be in the holiday house?

What I liked: I liked the narrator of this story, Stephanie Daniel, did a nice job with the large number of characters. I like Greenwood’s characterization, the characters are very real and enjoyable and the main character – Phryne Fisher – is a woman to be admired, more notable because this story was supposed to take place, I’m thinking, in the 1920s but the rest…

What I didn’t like: The rest seemed all over the place. I really had a hard time keeping the characters straight, even the main ones until well into the book. Part of the issue might be that this is book 18 in the Fisher mystery series (I was unaware of this when I picked it up), but maybe it’s also because Greenwood is Australian and maybe the book style of that country is different from mine. I have noticed a difference, at times, reading from someone from the UK so perhaps it is similar with the country down under. And the story was very difficult to follow. Greenwood moved from one scene and set of characters to another with minimal to no transition and at times it was difficult to know what the characters were talking about until a page or so into the scene. I kept reading because I liked the characters, but the story itself was uninteresting and odd at times. Perhaps if I tried an earlier work, it would have been better. Sometimes writers or editors become lazy after so many books in a series.

Rating: 2/5

Meet Jerry Apps and 4 other local Wisconsin Authors

maclogoCome to a free event put on by the Monroe Center for the Arts, Thursday, April 18th, 7 p.m.  – 1315 11th St. Monroe, WI in the Gunderson Stiles Concert Hall

Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of more than 30 books, Jerry Apps will moderate this forum of local authors including Matt FigiChristine Keleny (ME!), Bill Ross, and Olivia Rupprecht. These authors represent different genres of literature from history to mystery.  This forum will explore the writing process and its relation to the various genres of literature.  It promises to be a lively discussion.

Important Anniversary for All Who Love Words

mwol2010_mw_logo_headerI couldn’t pass up sharing this little tid bit of information. On April 14, 1828: Noah Webster registered the copyright on his American Dictionary of the English Language 185 years ago today. Imagine, just 2,500 copies of the first edition sold, for 20 dollars apiece. Twenty dollars must have been a fortune in 1828. It took him thirty years to compile it. He changed words like the Kings English colour and changed it to color, musik  to music, theatre to theater.  He introduced new “American” words (some based on Native American languages) such as opossum, skunk, and a favorite of yours and mine – Congress. He also wrote his own edition of the Bible. He was also instrumental in creating the first American census.

Noah was a school teacher and he was appalled by his students inability to spell.

I don’t know when Merriam got into the picture, but I couldn’t do without my dictionaries. I have multiple!

(This is also the night that Lincoln was shot (1865) and the Titanic struck an iceberg(1912).)

Join me and three other authors for a free book forum

room of ones own_logoThis next Wednesday, April 17th, at 6:30 at A Room Of Ones Own Bookstore in Madison,  three other Madison authors and will be offering a free forum on book publishing.

The other authors:

Marty Drapkin, author of Ten Nobodies and Now and at the Hour. He has a master’s degree in English education from the University of Wisconsin. Learn more at the author’s website!

Spike Pedersen, author of the self-published novel At First Light. Follow Spike’s blog!

Sarah White, author of 3 books published the traditional way as well as the self-published Write Your Travel Memoirs. She coaches self-publishing and writing. Find out more about Sarah at her website First Person Productions!

Come join us for a night of inspiration, and become the author you were meant to be.

Location: 
315 W. Gorham St.
Madison, 
Wisconsin
53703-2218
United States

Rainwater by Sandra Brown

rainwaterI picked this up by chance. I had not heard of Sandra Brown. I needed another audio-book to listen to and the few I have ordered from the library hadn’t arrived yet, so I picked up this one. I’m glad I did.

Genre: historical fiction

Blurb: (from Goodreads) The year is 1934. With the country in the stranglehold of drought and economic depression, Ella Barron runs her Texas boardinghouse with an efficiency that ensures her life will be kept in balance. Between chores of cooking and cleaning for her residents, she cares for her ten-year-old son, Solly, a sweet but challenging child whose misunderstood behavior finds Ella on the receiving end of pity, derision, and suspicion. When David Rainwater arrives at the house looking for lodging, he comes recommended by a trusted friend as “a man of impeccable character.” But Ella senses that admitting Mr. Rainwater will bring about unsettling changes.

What I didn’t like: It was a little slow to start but not much.

What I liked: It was a good story overall: good and an uncommon  character in the main character’s son – Solly – who was probably autistic but was considered an “idiot” in the 1930s, (mostly) believable story line, interesting backdrop of the depressive south, nice couple twists at the end. Victor Slezak was the narrator and did a nice job. I will definitely be picking up another one of Sandra’s books.

Rating: 4.5/5