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: 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?

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?

Book of Words: Intrusion by Mary McCluskey

Good writers choose their words carefully. This blog offers a different type of book review by combining it with vocabulary building. Included here are a few interesting words I found in Intrusion, a book released in July by British author Mary McCluskey. Some of the words McCluskey used were British and unfamiliar to me, so I included them in this blog.

Intrusion pits a woman who has hit rock bottom against a long-lost best friend with a hidden motive. Mary McCluskey deftly pulls the reader into the emotional turmoil of Kat Hamilton’s shattered life. The mourning mom struggles to support her husband’s efforts to maintain his standing in his law firm and fights to find meaning in her own life, but can barely get through each day. When she’s at her lowest, evil steps in to help push her over the edge. I found Intrusion to be an exciting psychological thriller that kept the tension high while ever increasing the stakes all the way to an end with a unexpected twist. McCluskey knows how to keep the reader guessing.

Cover pdf provided by Author Mary McCluskey

Cover pdf provided by Author Mary McCluskey

Words from Intrusion:

Cabochon: A gem polished but not faceted. <Origin> mid-16th century: from French, diminutive of caboche ‘head’. “Sara gave a small smile and looked down, twisting the cabochon emerald ring off her finger, then holding it for a few seconds, as if checking its weight, before replacing it.”

 Sepia: A reddish-brown color associated particularly with monochrome photographs of the 19th and early 20th centuries. <Special Usage> a brown pigment prepared from a black fluid secreted by cuttlefish, used in monochrome drawing and in watercolors. “These memories dropped softly, completely intact, into her mind. Sometimes, they were in strong, primary colors, occasionally in a kind of sepia, like old movies.”

Intransigent: Unwilling or refusing to change one’s views or to agree about something. “He is a lawyer. He has the nitpicky legal mind. I never dreamt he would be so intransigent.”

Janus: An ancient Italian deity, guardian of doorways and gates and protector of the state in time of war. He is usually represented with two faces, so that he looks both forward and backward. <Special Usage> two-faced; hypocritical; two-sided. “In profile, the two sides of her face could look quite different: one side so bare, the delicate bone structure clear and unobstructed, the other side hidden by a cascade of rich brown hair. A Janus face, Maggie had said once.”

 Sussed: (Chiefly British, informal) A verb meaning to realize, grasp. An abbreviation of suspect or suspicion. “Though Sister Judy may have sussed me.”

 Gobsmacked: (Chiefly British, informal) Utterly astonished; astounded. <Origin> 1980s: from GOB + SMACK, with reference to being shocked by a blow to the mouth, or to clapping a hand to one’s mouth in astonishment. “They’ll all be gobsmacked.”

Definitions are from The New Oxford American Dictionary through Kindle.

 

“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

What interesting words have you taken note of lately?

Book of Words: EXHUME by Danielle Girard

“The most important thing is to read as much as you can, like I did. It will give you an understanding of what makes good writing and it will enlarge your vocabulary.”

— J.K. Rowling

I’m using this blog to offer a chance at building a better vocabulary through the books I read. I’ll provide a short review of the book followed by a few words I think the author used in an interesting way or that might not be familiar, at least to me.

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Exhume (Dr. Schwartzman Series, Book 1) by Danielle Girard

I really enjoyed this thriller and had a hard time putting my Kindle aside until the end. The protagonist, Dr. Annabelle Schwartzman, is very well written by Girard. I found myself feeling it all as the young medical examiner works to solve the murder of a woman who could be her twin. She soon realizes the killer chose the victim for that very reason. As the plot thickens and the threats mount against her, Schwartzman gains strength rather than cowering in the knowledge that her own life is in danger. I found the story gripping. Girard is an excellent writer. Check her out at daniellegirard@com.

This book, because of its medical examiner character, offered a number of unfamiliar words.

Words from Exhume:

Manubrium: The broad upper part of the sternum of mammals, with which the clavicles and first ribs articulate.  “She fingered the place where her necklace always lay flat against her manubrium.”

Parasympathetic: (adj.) of or relating to the part of the automatic nervous system that counterbalances the action of the sympathetic nerves. It consists of nerves arising from the brain and the lower end of the spinal cord and supplying the internal organs, blood vessels and glands.  “Her parasympathetic nervous system now back in control, her empty stomach ached, leaving her nauseous and exhausted.”

 Hemangioma: A benign tumor of blood vessels, often forming a red birthmark.  “Behind Stein’s right knee was another birthmark, this one a hemangioma. The hemangioma—sometimes called a raspberry—was the result of blood vessels that clustered in utero and never fully dissipated.”

 Aquiline: (adj.) Like an eagle. Special usage: (of a person’s nose) hooked or curved like an eagle’s beak.  “Plenty who were tall and thin as she was, even some with an aquiline nose like her own and others who had been born with a nose like hers and then had the hump surgically removed.”

 Whorls: A coil or ring, in particular: a complete circle in a fingerprint.  “’I’ve seen documented cases where they’ve pulled whorls off flesh.’ ‘Whorls?’ T.J. asked. ‘From fingerprints,” Harper explained.”

 Clinodractyly: A medical term describing the curvature of a digit (a finger or toe) in the plane of the palm, most commonly the fifth or little finger towards the adjacent fourth finger or ring finger.  “Her long, lean fingers, fingers like her father’s had been, like her own, their tips curved in just slightly, making them appear slightly arthritic. The clinical term was clinodactyly, a condition that caused a curvature of the digits, though theirs was mild enough to go unnoticed unless one knew to look.”

 Alveoli: A small cavity, pit, or hollow, in particular: any of the many tiny air sacs in the lungs where the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide takes place. “Oxygen flowed into the bronchi, then into the smaller bronchioles and into the alveoli. Two adult lungs were the home to some three hundred million alveoli where the oxygen dissolved into the moisture-rich covering of the alveoli and diffused into the blood.”

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

What interesting words have you taken note of lately?

Book of Words: Skeleton’s Key by Stacy Green

I’m using this blog to offer a chance at building a better vocabulary through the books I read. I’ll provide a short review of the book followed by a few words I think the author used in an interesting way or that might not be familiar, at least to me. In this case, I included “antebellum” because the definition states that it can be used for the period before any war, and I found that interesting. I’m only familiar with it being used before the American Civil War.

Photo from the Facebook page of Stacy Green. She attributed the photo to Melinda VanLone, author.

Photo from the Facebook page of Stacy Green. Green attributed the graphic to Melinda VanLone, author, who created it for Green’s Delta Crossroads Trilogy.

Skeleton’s Key (Delta Crossroads Trilogy, Book 2) by Stacy Green

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Skeleton’s Key and just picked up two more books by Stacy Green. She’s a fantastic storyteller. I love the characters and felt their pain, tension and thrills as they struggled to sort out the complexities of the puzzles of murder and the history of an antebellum home. The book’s plot reminded me a little of the Nancy Drew mystery, The Hidden Staircase, one of my very favorite books when I was much younger. Saying that, I must add that there’s no doubt that Skeleton’s Key is for mature readers. It kept me guessing throughout and surprised me with a twist in the end. Her Delta Crossroads Trilogy is fantastic, but this author is quite prolific. I intend to check out more of her work!

Words from Skeleton’s Key:

Warded: Any of the internal ridges or bars in a lock that prevent the turning of any key that does not have the grooves of corresponding size or form.
“Dani again examined the locking mechanism. ‘It’s warded.’ ‘Meaning a skeleton Key probably opens it.’”

Spanish moss: A flowering plant that often grows upon larger trees, commonly the southern live oak and bald-cypress in the lowlands and savannas of southeastern United States. It’s also native in much of Mexico, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Central America, South America and the West Indies. It grows hanging from tree branches in full sun through partial shade.
“At night, under the silvery glow of the moon, the wisps of Spanish moss were ghostlike-the spirits of the past weaving their way through the twisted branches of the tree.”

Daguerreotype: A photograph taken by an early photographic process employing an iodine-sensitized silvered plate and mercury vapor.
“Hard to tell with the state of the picture, and the fact that it’s a daguerreotype further distorts the color.”

Antebellum: Occurring or existing before a particular war, esp. the American Civil War: the conventions of the antebellum South. The origin is Latin, from ante ‘before,’ and bellum ‘war.’
“After the dust settled, Jaymee inherited one of the town’s other flagship antebellum homes, Magnolia House.”

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

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

Do you look up words as you read?