Book of Words: Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman

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

This blog offers a different type of book review­—one that’s combined with vocabulary building. The words chosen may be familiar, but used in a unique way or not commonplace.

Included here, following a short review, are a few interesting words I found in Wilde Lake, a book released earlier this year by author Laura Lippman. Lippman, a best-selling author and absolutely superb storyteller, is one of my very favorite writers.

Wilde Lake is the story of a family, a family full of secrets. It’s also a tale about prejudice and how we may try to deny its existence but cannot truly shed the ingrained natuimg_2597re of it in our society, and in turn, ourselves. Lippman’s skill at pulling multiple tentacles of a story together thrives in this tale, but she eloquently succeeds at something unique even for her. The story is told from the perspective of one character, but some of it comes to us in the first-person account of a remembered childhood, while the rest is told in third-person present tense as all those story tentacles come together for Lu Brant, a newly elected state’s attorney. The combination of first and third person from the same protagonist is so competently handled that I didn’t catch it until well into the book. It seems to bring a more intimate view into the life unfolding in Wilde Lake. The unique characterization provides a deeper grasp of what is happening in Lu Brant’s life as she digs into her own family history while sorting out the facts of her first capital murder case in her new position. The layers of revelations and connections to Brant’s past keep the pages turning. From the book jacket: “If there is such a thing as the whole truth, Lu realizes—possibly too late—that she would be better off not knowing what it is.”

Words from Wilde Lake:

Suborn: v. bribe or otherwise induce (someone) to commit an unlawful act such as perjury. “They might have been led during the interviews. But I don’t think my father suborned perjury, not over so trivial a thing.”

 Ascetic: adj. characterized by or suggesting the practice of severe self-discipline and abstention from all forms of indulgence, typically for religious reasons. “AJ stands, walks to the edge of his pool. A lap pool, he defended to Lu when she mocked this expense by ascetic.” AND “He then made his own Eat, Pray, Love pilgrimage around the world, although ascetic AJ skipped the eating part.”

 Canard: n. an unfounded rumor or story. “Everyone knows the old canard that an attorney never asks a question to which she doesn’t know the answer, but that’s for court, after investigations, depositions, discovery.”

 Polemics: n. a strong verbal or written attack on someone or something. “’No,’ he says adamantly. ‘No more polemics disguised as memoirs.’”

 Ersatz: adj. (of a product) made or used as a substitute, typically an inferior one, for something else. “Heck, her father has had an ersatz wife in Teensy all these years.”

 Imprecation: n. a spoken curse. “The EMT guys decide to let her go home, although with muttered imprecations about concussions, and while Lu scoffs at them, she finds herself unaccountably nervous as bedtime nears.”

 Perambulate: v. walk or travel through or around (a place or area), esp. for pleasure and in a leisurely way. “’Your house? No, I just­—I just sometimes like to . . . perambulate,’ Davey said.”

 Frisson: n. a sudden strong feeling of excitement or fear; a thrill. “Lu feels a strange frisson of nerves when she goes before the grand jury to obtain a formal indictment against Rudy Drysdale.”

 Nascent: adj. (esp. of a process or organization) just coming into existence and beginning to display signs of future potential. “I wish he had saved his nascent memoir. I would have loved to read his version of his life, then and now.”

 Scrim: n. strong, coarse fabric, chiefly used for heavy-duty lining or upholstery. “As the song reached its climax, a scrim depicting the Tree of Life fell and somehow it seemed as if the chorus had become a living, breathing Tree of Life.”

Pejorative: adj. expressing contempt or disapproval, or n. a word expressing contempt or disapproval. “The original ‘villages’ of Columbia are now called the ‘inner villages,’ and the pejorative echo of inner city is not accidental.”

 Dilettante: n. a person who cultivates an area of interest, such as the arts, without real commitment or knowledge. “During the campaign, Fred called her a dilettante, tried to suggest that she wanted his job so she wouldn’t be bored.”

Definitions are typically from The New Oxford American Dictionary.

What interesting words have you taken note of lately? What do you do when you come across an unfamiliar word while reading?

M.G. Miller’s Character Chills

Caroline Turner is down on her luck. She has lost her job and hit a bottom she’s struggling to understand. She could have handled her husband’s betrayal, but betrayal by her only child breaks her heart. Who wouldn’t feel for the poor woman when on top of all else she’s forced to move back home to take care of her ungrateful bedridden mother?

jack6.000x9.000.inddM.G. Miller drags the reader deep into Caroline’s mind from the start. We feel the trepidation as she approaches the rundown house and enters the dark gloomy interior. We know what awaits upstairs isn’t going to be good, but Miller’s able to shock with a sharp whack from Mama’s cane. From that first blow, the horrors are set in motion.

Who can blame Turner for taking that cane? Can we condemn her for feeding Mama cold soup and slipping in a little tranquilizer to make her sleep through the night?

We root for Caroline and hate her mother right along with her. The downtrodden woman struggles at first with moments of hope that she can withstand Mama’s abuse and provide the basic care she needs. Mama’s actions and words drive away any such aspirations.

millerWith each chapter, Miller pulls back layers of Caroline’s mix of ego and self-hatred. Through Mama’s horrible words, we know why she has no self-esteem, and why she struggles with her image in the mirror. The reader comes to understand the levels she’ll go to in order to feel loved. It’s apparent Mama never cared for her own daughter, and that she was jealous of Caroline’s relationship with her long-dead father. We don’t know the horrifying secrets that are buried deep in Caroline’s mind, but Mama manages to pull them out and shove them bluntly and cruelly like a pile of feces smack in her face.

This chilling narrative told in first person draws a mix of sympathy and disdain that swells in a gripping crescendo as the relationship between Mama and Caroline comes to a horrifying climax. Miller’s storytelling talent is evident in his ability to make the reader hate, yet sympathize with the character, to understand the misery and despair that propel her toward a terrifying end, and force internal questioning of what they’d do in her place, how far they’d go.

Murderous is an absolute must for thriller lovers, but any reader will be drawn in by the characterization in this gripping tale.

Find Murderous on Amazon, along with other must reads by M.G. Miller. http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss…

Daughter of the Howling Moon

I’ve read paranormal, but it’s not my favorite genre. I may have to change my mind after reading Daughter of the Howling Moon by R.H. Burkett, but this tale is more of a mystery/thriller with some paranormal elements. I was so impressed with the writing style, the storyline and the characterization that I had to tell you about it here.

FullSizeRender-2This book absolutely draws you in with the first chapter and keeps you in its claws with every turn of plot.

Here’s a taste of one of the most engaging characters I’ve ever read, Bethany Ann from Chapter 1: “Mama looked like always. Well, maybe there was hint of paleness around her mouth and a funny rattle to her breathing, but certainly not anything close to the feared shadow of Death. Then again, what was Death supposed to look like, anyway?

‘Is that you, Bethany Ann?’

‘Yes, Mama,’ I said and took her outstretched hand in mine.

Her hands looked the same too. Hard and calloused from years scrubbing clothes on the old washboard out back and permanently faded from the harsh lye soap. Washing, cooking, and cleaning, that was Mama in a nutshell. Probably would be the exact words chiseled on her tombstone too.”

I was intrigued by the synopsis and the first few pages of this book. I read on and couldn’t stop. I realized the thrill of the mystery in this story was pulling me from page to page, keeping me guessing and dying to know more. Burkett does an outstanding job of presenting her characters and immersing the reader in the story through her portrayal of those characters, making you care, root for them, against them and everything in between. When I turned to the last page, I was absolutely disappointed to have to let go of Bethany Ann and her Ben! The story was complete and Burkett did a great job of telling it, but I wanted more!

Here’s a snippet from Ben’s point of view: “Maybe he imagined it. Maybe the effects of a long day in the heat and sun coupled with a hungry gut, a tried butt and a short night of drums pounding his head had scrambled his thinking. He didn’t know. But stagnant, humid air cooled and whispered to the tree tops. Night sounds of swamp creatures hushed as if the crickets and bullfrogs were holding their breath. A shimmering, much like moonbeams on still water, danced just out of reach. He blinked, not trusting what he saw. And the girl in front of him stood taller and spoke with a dangerous, powerful voice that made the hairs on the back of his neck stand at attention.”

The reader gets easily and totally immersed in the scenery because of the outstanding description. I was in the head of Bethany Ann and Ben with Burkett’s fine and inspiring writing style. This is without a doubt a fantastic book with a storyline that will keep you guessing until the end.

I highly recommend this read. Published by Pen-L Publishing, Daughter of the Howling Moon is a sure bet for any reader of mystery, paranormal or thriller.

Check it out on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Daughter-Howling-Moon-R-Burkett/dp/1940222710/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1427400245&sr=8-1&keywords=Daughter+of+the+Howling+Moon