BOOK OF WORDS: Almost Dead by Lisa Jackson

This blog offers a different type of book review­—one that’s combined with vocabulary building.

Included here, following a short review, are a few interesting words I found in Almost Dead, one of dozens of novels New York Times best-selling author Lisa Jackson has under her belt. In researching for this blog, I was surprised to learn that she and another author I love to read, Nancy Bush, are sisters.

Almost Dead is the story of a young mother who’s awash in grief at the sudden loss of her grandmother. Cissy Cahill thinks that grief is making her lose her mind when she hears footsteps and senses strange shadows in the family’s San Francisco home. Then other members of the affluent family suffer sudden brutal deaths. Cissy is forced to dig into the family history to find answers and hope to discover the killer. Almost Dead kept me guessing until the surprise twist in the end, like Jackson’s writing often does.

 

A Few Words from Almost Dead:

Rabbit-Warren: n. a series of underground tunnels where rabbits live; a building or place with many connected rooms, passages, etc., where you can get lost very easily.  “The real work took place behind a solid-core door that led to rabbit-warren work spaces, of which Sybil Tomini’s was one of the largest.”

 Disabused: v. persuade (someone) that an idea or belief is mistaken  “‘It wasn’t all that terrific,’ Cissy disabused them. ‘We Cahills seem to have trouble in the happiness department.’”

Progeny: n. a descendant or the descendants of a person, animal, or plant; offspring.  “They all knew that was wrong, all realized that her father, and all of his progeny, had been scammed by that vile grandfather of Cissy’s.”

 Stygian: adj. of or relating to the Styx River. <SPECIAL USAGE> Poetic/Literary very dark.  “All the while she eyed the shadows and stygian umbras; the wet, shivering plants; the dark sheltered nooks where the exterior corners of the house met.”

Umbras: n. the fully shaded inner region of a shadow cast by an opaque object esp. the area on the earth or moon experiencing the total phase of an eclipse.  “All the while she eyed the shadows and stygian umbras; the wet, shivering plants; the dark sheltered nooks where the exterior corners of the house met.”

Moue: n. a pouting expression used to convey annoyance or distaste.  “Marla made a moue of distaste at the memories of her mother-in-law.”

 Definitions are typically from The New Oxford American Dictionary through Kindle or internet research, including Wikipedia.

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is… the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” — Mark Twain

“The word is only a representation of the meaning; even at its best, writing almost always falls short of full meaning. Given that, why in God’s name would you want to make things worse by choosing a word which is only cousin to the one you really wanted to use?” — Stephen King, On Writing

What interesting words have you taken note of lately?

Book of Words: Please Say Kaddish for Me by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

This blog offers a different type of book review­—one that’s combined with vocabulary building. Included here, following a short review, are a few particularly interesting words I found in Please Say Kaddish for Me. The definitions are followed by quotes from the story.

A particularly talented writer, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields is also an artist who creates her own cover art.

Please Say Kaddish for Me is the story of a sixteen-year-old Jewish girl who escapes an attack on her home in Russia in 1899. Czarist marauders kill her entire family. Young Havah Cohen barely survives the frigid cold as she runs away in just a nightgown. She fortunately ends up in the arms of another loving Jewish family. But her struggles don’t end as more persecution of the people of her faith reigns down. The story unfolds as Havah builds her physical and emotional strength, learns to adapt to new situations, and changes her life with brave decisions. Please Say Kaddish for Me is very well-written and draws the reader in with excellent characterization of the Jewish people and the love and tragedy Havah encounters. It’s filled with layers of fascinating information of historical Jewish culture and sprinkled with just the right amount of Yiddish words, set off in italics and enough explanation the meaning is obvious. I truly enjoyed this book and plan to read Wisoff-Fields two additional books that follow Havah’s story as her new family escapes Russia and settles in America, From Silt and Ashes and As One Must, One Can.

Words from Please Say Kaddish for Me:

Kaddish: n. an ancient Jewish prayer sequence regularly recited in the synagogue service, including thanksgiving and praise and concluding with a prayer for universal peace. a form of this prayer sequence recited for the dead.  She forced her heavy mouth to shape the Hebrew prayer—Kaddish—prayer for the dead and prayer for the bereft.”

Shul: n. a synagogue.  The core of the Jewish community, the synagogue or shul was the linchpin that held them together.”

Bema: n. the altar part or sanctuary in ancient and Orthodox churches. (JUDAISM) the podium or platform in a synagogue from which the Torah and Prophets are read.  Tables had been arranged side by side like stalwart soldiers, around the bema. They stood ready for the men to study, discuss and argue points of law.”

Mitzvah: n. (JUDAISM) a precept or commandment. a good deed done from religious duty.  Ari, my boy, it’s a mitzvah, a good deed,’ said Hershel.”

Shabbes: n. the Yiddish term for the Jewish Sabbath.  “This, on Shabbes, is allowed.”

Cholent: n. a Jewish Sabbath dish of slowly baked meat and vegetables, prepared on a Friday and cooked overnight.  “Savory cholent simmered in a pot on the hot stove.”

Goyim or Goy: n. (INFORMAL, OFTEN OFFENSIVE) a Jewish name for a non-Jew.  “In America women study Torah and even appear in public with their heads uncovered like the goyim.”

Schmootz: n. dirt.  “Of course, we need to clean the schmootz off you.”

Shokhet: n. a ritual slaughterer, a kosher slaughterer, kosher butcher.  “Behind that, was a large pen where the shokhet slaughtered livestock to be prepared according to dietary law.”

Hornbeam: n. a deciduous tree of north temperate regions, with oval serrated leaves, inconspicuous drooping flowers, and tough winged nuts. It yields hard pale timber.  “Shayndel pointed to a lush hornbeam tree growing beside the blacksmith’s shop.”

Mishegoss: n. craziness, senseless behavior or activity.  “On top of everything else, she needs his mishegoss like a hole in the head.”

Minyan: n. a quorum of ten men (or in some synagogues, men and women) over the age of 13 required for traditional Jewish public worship.  “You know you’re not supposed to sing Kaddish without a minyan.”

Dummkopf: n. a stupid person, blockhead.  “Ach! What a dumkopf.”

Mien: n. a person’s look or manner, esp. one of a particular kind indicating their character or mood: he has a cautious, academic mien.  “He sauntered to the piano and with aristocratic mien, sat on the bench.”

Dreidel: n. a small four-sided spinning top with a Hebrew letter on each side, used by the Jews.  “Sitting cross-legged on the floor with Tuli and Zelig, he spun a clay top called a dreidel between his fingers. He read off the Hebrew letters inscribed on each of its four sides. ‘Noon, gimmel, hey, sheen. Did I pronounce them right, Teacher?’”… “The quintessential rabbi, Zelig pointed to each letter on the dreidel, ‘Nes gadol hayah sham. That means ‘A great miracle happened here.’”

Definitions are typically from The New Oxford American Dictionary through Kindle or Wikipedia. For this particular blog, online Yiddish dictionaries also came in handy.

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is… the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” — Mark Twain

What interesting words have you taken note of lately?

Book of Words: Finding Lizzy Smith by Susan Keene

This blog offers a different type of book review­—one that’s combined with vocabulary building. Included here, following a short review, are a few interesting words I found in Finding Lizzy Smith.

Finding Lizzy Smith is a complex riddle that perplexes the reader all the way to the surprising climax. Susan Keene’s story includes a likeable protagonist faced with major challenges, even a serious guilt complex over an incident in the past. That past comes back to haunt private investigator Kate Nash while she’s struggling with the unexplained murder of her husband. Nash is forced to search for a friend that may have been kidnapped, then other friends start turning up dead. Is all this trouble, even her husband’s death, related to Nash’s old mistake? I liked this character, sympathized with her guilt, and urged her on as she discovers the unexpected truth. This is the first book of the Kate Nash Mysteries, and the next is bound to be as exciting and rewarding with Keene’s talented writing style.

Words from Finding Lizzy Smith:

Kibitzed: v. look on and offer unwelcome advice, esp. at as a card game. speak informally; chat. We sorted the mail, answered all the phone messages, and kibitzed about the events of the night before.”

Geocaching: n. the recreational activity of hunting for and finding a hidden object by means of GPS coordinates posted on a Web site. Anymore, looking for reward money is like geocaching, everyone is doing it.”

Planchette: n. a small board supported on casters, typically heart-shaped and fitted with a vertical pencil, used for automatic writing and in séances. If the planchette begins to move in a figure eight, it means an evil spirit has control of the board.”

Effeminate: adj. (of a man) having or showing characteristics regarded as typical of a woman; unmanly. “He was a short, effeminate man with a balding head and a potbelly.”

Rede: n. advice or counsel given by one person to another; what is your rede? / v. advise (someone) or interpret (a riddle or dream). “It’s from the Wiccan Rede, a poem, handed down for centuries.”

Definitions are typically from The New Oxford American Dictionary through Kindle or Wikipedia.

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is… the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” — Mark Twain

What interesting words have you taken note of lately?