JaniceHeck

Finding hope in a chaotic world…

Archive for the category “Book Reviews”

On the 15th Anniversary of 9-11, 2001

Announcing…

the publication of Triumph Over Terror by Chaplain Bob Ossler with Janice Hall Heck.

How do we triumph over the hard things in our lives?

Firefighter, paramedic, and ordained chaplain, Bob Ossler spent 45 days at Ground Zero comforting families of victims who died in the 9-11-2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. His observations and memories of those days along with his interactions with people he met in the worst circumstances of their lives make compelling reading.

In Triumph Over Terror, Chaplain Bob Ossler shares how he conquered the continuous recycling of tormenting memories of events and sights that assailed him during and after the terrorist attacks of 2001.

What do Ossler’s insights reveal about finding meaning and purpose in the thick of chaos and personal tragedy? Ossler chronicles the best of humanity–acts of courage and goodness in the midst of overwhelming devastation. While some scenes may make you cringe, the overpowering message of this book is positive: with God’s help, we can overcome.

From the broken fragments of glass, steel, and men, Chaplain Ossler’s mosaic of God’s grace unveils the outpouring of generosity, heroism, and unity of people who stepped up to do something…anything… to help restore New York and America’s hope, pride, and will.

Ossler’s stories will bring tears to your eyes and smiles to your lips, and in the end, you will feel encouraged by the stories of ordinary people serving in extraordinary ways during the aftermath of that never-to-be-forgotten day.

But this book is not just about the events of 9-11. It is a book of life’s lessons learned through tragedy and chaos. In the process of comforting the mourners, the frightened, and the heartbroken laborers sifting through millions of tons of carnage, Ossler learned about the indomitable human spirit in the midst of unimaginable horror and how that spirit can conquer chaos.

As terrorist attacks continue to assault humanity, Triumph Over Terror reveals how your spirit can triumph over terror, chaos, or heartache of any kind.

Here’s what Tim Shoemaker, author of Super Husband, Super Dad and The Code of Silence series and public speaker at family conferences, had to say about Triumph Over Terror. (Tim Shoemaker at http://www.smashedtomatoes.com.)

Triumph Over Terror by Bob Ossler can be summed up in one word: Powerful. I intended to take just a minute to glance through Bob’s book, but I got hooked on the first page and just kept reading. Triumph Over Terror isn’t just a history lesson; it’s a book full of life lessons.”

Take a few seconds and order Triumph Over Terror from Amazon here.

Bk Review: Raising Blaze: A Mother and Son’s Long, Strange Journey into Autism

Raising Blaze: A Mother and Son’s Long, Strange Journey into Autism by Debra Ginsberg
Harper Perennial Reprint edition, 2003.REAding
2002 title. Raising Blaze: Bringing Up an Extraordinary Son in an Ordinary World by Debra Ginsberg HarperCollins, 2002

Nonfiction

001Blaze is not your typical child. In fact, because of his extreme behavioral issues, he is a child in need of great support in a modified educational program. He has a strong family support system: a mother, Debra Ginsberg, a writer who willingly gave up her own job and personal success to ensure that Blaze had at least a fighting chance to get a fair and balanced education of his own. The book details the emotional journal of Blaze, his mother, and his extended family (grandfather, mother’s sisters, and a brother) all of whom pitched in to help when the school system proved to be too much for Blaze.

Ginsberg ran the gamut of regular teachers, special education teachers, aides, psychologists, therapists, principals, meeting them all in and out of classrooms and Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings held to determine the course of Blaze’s school life. Multiple attempts at a proper diagnosis and thus a handicapping condition label left school personnel and family members frustrated. Blaze did not fit neatly into a DSM-IV (the catalog of handicapping conditions labels and descriptors), not that the label would have helped anything. After years of frustration and major disappointments with the educational system, Ginsberg threw down the gauntlet and got a legal advocate for her son.

The book covers Blaze’s life from conception, his difficult birth, the years of doctor’s visits and tests, through year after year of educational crises. Fifth and sixth grades provided a measure of relief in the form of an exceptional special education teacher who was even willing to take Blaze on the annual sixth grade camping trip, a potentially traumatic event for an autistic child.  The book ends after an abortive beginning in seventh grade. Ginsberg and her family begin to home-school blaze in a team effort, with the plan for him to eventually return to school.

Ginsberg wrote this book because she could never find one to read herself when she was in the throes of Blaze’s chaotic school years. She says,

It is true that every human story is unique, yet it is also true that there are qualities we all share as humans. Among those qualities are our differences and thus our sameness. My hope for Raising Blaze was that others would find themselves in this perspective and in our story.

I connected with this book in three ways, first as a mother of a special needs child (I remember those IEP meetings well!), as a special education teacher, and as a school administrator. Because I had sat in the parent’s seat at the IEP meetings for my daughter, I felt I had a better understanding of the parents’ feelings and goals when I sat in the educator and administrator’s seats for their children’s IEPs. Each role made me a better fit for the other roles.

Debra’s book does some of that, too. She tells the truth when she relates the discomfort a parent feels in IEP meetings. As a frequent parent volunteer and a special education classroom aide, she realized that she not only has to teach these children, she needed to touch their hearts. These children well know that they are different, and they need teachers who will treat them as the special persons they are. They are not just a collection of behaviors that vary from the norm.

Teachers and parents of all children should read this book for insights into the world of special education. As an administrator (if I were not already retired), I would have my entire faculty and staff read the book, and then share it with the school community. The book has messages for each person who reads it.

Blaze was in seventh grade at the end of Ginsberg’s book. Now he is in his twenties, and he has written a book about his experiences: Episodes: My Life as I See It. I am looking forward to reading this book, too.

NaBloPoMo 25. It’s Monday. What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday. What Are You Reading? 

Several weeks ago, I posted a book review of The Red Kimono by Jan Morrill. This book tells of a Japanese family who lived in San Francisco at the beginning of WWII, but who were forced from their home to live in an internment camp in Arkansas.

002Karen, my reading buddy, gave me another book on the same topic. When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka. This short novel of five chapters and 132 pages tells the story of a Japanese family destroyed by a war with which they had no part. Each member of the family tells a part of the story, picking up the story where the previous member left off.

Chapter 1. “Evacuation Order No. 19.” The narrator begins with the mother, who has no name, and tells her story in an unemotional, detached manner. It is almost as if the mother is a bystander who watches the story unravel in front of her, and the story is so painful that she cannot bear to be a part of it. She sheds no tears. She locks her feelings within and does what she must do to comply with the posted evacuation orders that have appeared around Berkeley, CA., in the spring of 1942.

She goes home and methodically dismantles her life. (Her husband, a well-to-do, well-traveled businessman, has already been arrested and taken to a military prison as a Japanese enemy alien.)  She sorts and packs for the imminent forced move, puts some things aside, throws others away, and burns or destroys the treasures that formed the core of her character: family photographs, three silk kimonos, a Japanese flag, and the abacus. She dispatches the White Dog, the chicken in the yard, the family bird, and the bottle of plum wine in quick order. Tomorrow they leave for an unknown destination for an unknown amount of time, where time and days will melt together in the heat.

Chapter 2. “Train” The nameless 11-year-old girl, with something of an attitude, picks up the story and describes the train trip to the internment camp in the desert at Topaz, Utah, where the mother, the girl, and the boy, begin life in one of the hundreds of tar-paper shacks with no running water, surrounded by barbed-wire fences. In clips of daily life and flashbacks, the girl portrays the hopelessness of their situation.

Chapter 3. “When the Emperor Was Divine” In the beginning of the stay in Topaz, the eight-year-old boy thought he saw his father everywhere, but he was not to be found. The boy watches the mother despair about their living situation. At night, he dreams of the father, the Emperor, and the cute little blonde girl who lived nearby back home. The nameless boy remembers her full name: Elizabeth Morgana Roosevelt. He, perhaps, holds out the most hope for the family: at least the father can find them here in the internment camp.

Chapter 4. “In a Stranger’s Backyard.” The story moves to third-person plural point of view. “We.” The mother, the girl, the boy each receive twenty-five dollars and train fare to go home to a life very different from life before the war.

Chapter 5. “Confession” The father speaks in first person, “I,” and tells his story of pain, humiliation, and of being imprisoned for being “too short, too dark, too ugly, too proud.” He may be free now from captivity, but he is definitely not free.

The stories tell the story in this book. The mother, the girl, the boy do not tell of the emotional pain they suffer; they show it. Readers will feel the depth of their pain as they follow these four individuals through three dark years and traumatic years.

This book succinctly describes a terrible time in our American history. It is well worth reading to gain a perspective on this historical period and the innocent Japanese Americans who suffered through it.

NaBloPoMo 8: WANAFriday: What Would I Do?

NaBloPoMo=National Blog Posting Month. Challenge: Write a post a day in November.

WANA=We Are Not Alone, a group of bloggers who provide mutual support for our writing and blogging efforts. Shepherded by by Kristen Lamb.
WANA Challenge: Write a #WANAFriday post every Friday with a prompt posted by one of our members.

This week’s #wanafriday question/theme comes from WANAite, Cora Ramos.

How did the last book you read change you, or not. What do you want from a good book?
In recent weeks, I have posted several reviews on books I have recently read:
I found each of these books to be well-written and each had a significant message.
I wouldn’t say that these books changed me, but I must admit that I have thought about their messages a number times since finishing them. How would I hold up under these circumstances? What decisions would I make when faced with these incomprehensible challenges?
001 (23)In The Red Kimono, a Japanese family living in San Francisco in 1941, faces discrimination, character assassination, and brutal loss of freedom through no fault of their own.
The story, written by Jan Morrill, relates events that happened in her own family’s world. In reading this book, you face the reality of war-time human interactions and shake your head. How could this happen in our own country? Both major and minor characters struggle with the complexities of a world gone crazy with fear and hate. The characters each learn something in their struggle to survive in their pain and suffering. And the characters have lessons for the reader, too. It is a powerful story, beautifully told.
001The House I Loved by Tatiana de Rosnay is historical fiction, set in Paris, France in the 1860s, when a powerful government under Emperor Napoleon III  decided to modernize Paris by tearing down entire quaint neighborhoods and rebuilding with grand boulevards and modern architecture.
This touching story relates how people from these intimate neighborhoods coped with the change: the young and realistic coped and moved on; the elderly suffered and struggled with overwhelming change in their lives.
Rose Bazelet decided to fight the modernization incursion in her little neighborhood in her own way, and in the meantime, she confronted long-held secrets. The book, written in letters to her late husband, Armand, describe the horror of the destruction of near-by neighborhoods. Soon the destruction reaches her own dearly-loved neighborhood. It’s coming closer and closer to Rose’s house. Now it’s time…
Tatiana de Rosnay, named one of the top three fiction writers in Europe in 2010, wrote NYT  bestsellers Sarah’s Key and A Secret Kept.
001M.L. Stedman’s book, Light Between Oceans, presents a compelling moral dilemma for a young, childless couple, Tom and Isabel Sherbourne, who have suffered multiple miscarriages in their short marriage. Isabel’s emotional well-being is tied up in these miscarriages.
The lighthouse keeper has emotional problems of his own dealing with his memories of battles in Europe in WWI. He was one of the lucky ones who arrived home still in one piece, but his memories of battles and close friends who died there, torment him.
Now living on an isolated lighthouse island off the coast of Australia, the couple discovers a dinghy on the beach with a dead man and a live baby in it. How could this be? Is it an answer to Isabel’s prayers and pleading for a child? They can’t possibly fathom why, but here is a live baby that needs care. Is it their responsibility to care for this baby? What is their responsibility in this situation?
The decisions they make have long-ranging consequences. This book is both compelling and heart-breaking.
Why did I like these books?
1. Historical fiction (or books with historical settings) are among my favorites. I love reading about other times and other places.
2. Each one of these books has a compelling story, with complications that challenged the main character’s (and even minor character’s) whole lives and belief systems. These books raise many questions:
How do people react when their worlds fall apart?
Do they rely on their past moral instruction, or do they make it up as they go along.
What are the consequences do they face when going with their hearts and not their reason?
How do people cope with tragedy in their lives? Do they stand up to and go on? Do they fall apart?
What character traits belong to each group?
Would we be like this person or that person?
3. These books give many hours of pleasurable reading, although the tension, at times, runs high.
We don’t know how we would react in these extreme situations, but we hope we would act in accordance with our own long-help beliefs, values, and principles.
The Last Meow
Yes, Missy Jan, I know you like to read, but could you just let me finish my breakfast in peace? Please? I have a busy day scheduled. After I eat, I will play, sleep, then eat again. Let me get started!
Photo: Crash the Cat by Kathy Cherry

Photo: Crash the Cat by Kathy Cherry

Meow for now! =<^;^>=

NaBloPoMo 4: The Light Between Oceans: Book Review

NaBloPoMo_November_smallREAding Two challenges with one entry!

NaBloPoMo

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

M. L. Stedman, The Light Between Oceans

I posted about oceans a bit ago, and that post has gotten a lot of attention: Two Oceans Meet in Gulf of Alaska. Not! So when a friend gave me Stedman’s book recently, and it talks about two oceans meeting in the southern part of our world.

The story’s beginnings…001

A lighthouse keeper and his wife live on a square-mile island, Janus Rock, barely a dot on the map in the shoals a hundred miles off the southwest coast of Western Australia. The nearest land community is the remote Point Partageuse on the coast between Perth and Albany, at a spot where the Indian Ocean meets the Southern (Antarctic) Ocean.

As far as lighthouse posts go, this one is very unpopular and considered to be a hardship post. It’s only link to Point Partageuse is the Windward Spirit, a store boat that brings provisions four times a year. Otherwise, Janus Rock “dangled off the edge of the cloth like a loose button that might easily plummet to Antarctica,” a day-long boat trip away from the mainland.

“From this side of the island, there was only vastness, all the way to Africa. Here, the Indian Ocean washed into the Great Southern Ocean and together they stretched like an edgeless carpet below the cliffs. On days like this it seemed so solid she had the impression she could walk to Madagascar in a journey of blue upon blue.”

Map of Australia from the book The Light Between Oceans, a novel by M.L. Stedman. Look in the southwest corner for the (fictional) Point Partageuse.

Map of Australia from the book The Light Between Oceans, a novel by M.L. Stedman. Look in the southwest corner for the (fictional) Point Partageuse.

“The other side of the island looked back, fretful, toward the Australian mainland nearly a hundred miles away not quite belonging to the land, yet not quite free of it, the highest of a string of under-sea mountains that rose from the ocean floor like teeth along a jagged jaw bone, waiting to devour any innocent ships in their final dash for harbor.”

“The Southern Ocean is treacherous enough on the surface, let alone having that under-sea ridge.”

Lighthouse at Tasmania

Lighthouse at Tasmania (with an example of the undersea ridge with its jagged teeth waiting to devour innocent ships that wander too close)

It is this ocean setting that forms the stage for M. L. Stedman’s novel, The Light Between Oceans. 

1926. Isabel Sherwood, the grieving lighthouse keeper’s wife, tends the tiny grave of her recently miscarried child. She prays the Lord’s Prayer as she works  “…and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”   She hears unexpected sounds in the vast emptiness of her rocky island.

“For just a moment, her mind tricked her into hearing an infant’s cry.
She heard the cry again, louder this time on the early-morning breeze. Impossible.”

From the lighthouse, Tom Sherwood sees a dinghy beached in the cove. Both Tom and Isabel race to the cover only to find the dingy, a dead man, and a crying baby wrapped in a lavender sweater sheltered in bow of the boat.

Tom knows his responsibilities and gets ready to send a message to the mainland authorities to report the arrival of the dead man and a baby. But temptation lingers in the air.

“‘Not yet!’ Isabel said as she touched the baby’s fingers.”

What follows is a tragic tale of right and wrong decisions and their long-term consequences.  It’s a tale of human emotional suffering that outweighs a lifetime of moral responsibility. This book is gripping and heartbreaking. Once you start reading it, you will not want to put it down. You will have many questions when you finish, but you will like the book and its author.

You can read comments on The LIght Between Oceans here: Goodreads.com.

About the location… Some reviewers have suggested that the Stedman’s lighthouse in the book, The LIght Between Oceans, is really the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse on the Western Australia mainland coast.

Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse. Augusta Margaret River Tourist Association

Tourists who have visited Cape Leeuwin LIghthouse describe the winds and rough oceans, (www.TripAdvisor.com) but no distinguishing marks to actually indicate where the two oceans meet. In reality, they meet at an imaginary line drawn on maps by cartographers.

Stedman says this about the ocean:

“There are times when the ocean is not the ocean, not blue, not even water, but some violent explosion of energy and danger ferocity on a scale only gods can summon. It hurls itself at the island, sending spray right over the top of the lighthouse, biting pieces off the cliff. And the sound is a roaring of a beast whose anger knows no limits. Those are the nights the light is needed most.”

In the end, it is the ocean and the light from the lighthouse that remain constant. The Sherwood’s lives exist only in memory, their story an “unvisited headstone.”

The Last Meow.

Wow, those oceans look a bit rough for me. I’ll just hang out at the beach, if you don’t mind.

Photo credit: Travel Times Magazine

Photo credit: Travel Times Magazine

Meow for now. =<^;^>=

WANAfriday: A Good Weekend for Reading

Every Friday a WANA112 blogger tosses out a prompt for fellow bloggers to consider. The prompt for this week is:

001First Lines. Take this first line from Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani and run with it:

“This will be a good weekend for reading.”

Ava Maria Milligan took over as Big Stone Gap’s pharmacist when her cold, unfatherly father died thirteen years ago. Now single and thirty-five, her mother’s recent death leaves her in a quandary: a revealed death-bed secret causes Ava Maria to reevaluate everything about her life in Big Stone Gap.

Even so, life goes on. The big weekly event in Big Stone Gap, “The Coal Mining Capital of Virginia”  in the Blue Ridge Mountains, is the arrival of the Wise County Bookmobile. Ava’s life almost depends on this “glittering royal coach” and the life-line to the world that it brings each week. Contemplating living in Stone Creek for the rest of her life, now that town gossip flaunts her mother’s long-buried secret, becomes a major challenge. The bookmobile, at least, brings “stories and knowledge and life itself” and relief from the pain of her mother’s death.

Quaint, but clever, mountain folk contribute to the liveliness of the book: Vernie Crabtree (makes killer chocolate chip cookies in town); Iva Lou Wade, (the bookmobile librarian dishes out advice on books and love in equal measure); Mrs. Nan Bluebell MacChesney (“Apple Butter Nan” and not-too-successful match-maker for her son); Jack MacChesney (a mountain man and one of two eligible bachelors in town); Theodore Tipton (the well-educated, non-romantic, other bachelor in town); and other characters who enliven the drama of everyday life in a small mountain town.

The September weekend threatens to be a cool, rainy weekend. This will be a good weekend for reading, Ava Marie thinks. On Iva Lou’s advice, she picks up The Captains and the Kings, a historical romance. She also picks up The Ancient Art of Chinese Face Reading, and As Grief Exits.

But this book is not about reading. It is about a young woman, a town leader in many ways, who now questions everything about her life as she works through this newly gained truth about her birth father. Along with the death-bed secret comes information about long-lost family members in Italy.

Is Ava’s future in this mountain town or in the wider world that she has come to love through her reading? Will Nan Blueberry MacChesney ever have any luck marrying off her mountain-man son? Read this well-written and enjoyable book to find the answers to these questions and to find out more about life in a small, coal-mining town in Virginia.

* * *

As for me, this will be a good weekend for reading, too. We seem to be having an early fall with almost record-setting low temperatures in the morning but warmer temperatures later in the day. I hadn’t originally planned to spend the weekend reading, but my reading group meets on Sunday, and I have to finish Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s, The Language of Flowers, before then. I have read a few reviews of the book, and it sounds like a book I will enjoy.

Language of Flowers

In my TBR stash, I have several other books waiting. I know I won’t get to them this weekend, perhaps next week.

Last weekend, I read Trenton Lee Stewart’s The Mysterious Benedict Society, a YA book about gifted children who set out to save the world. I loved the cleverness of the writing, so I picked up two more in the series at the library: The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, and The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma.

001 (4)

I also looked online and discovered several more books in the Big Stone Gap series, so on another rainy weekend I will read a few more of Adriana Trigiani’s books:

Big Cherry Holler
Milk Glass Moon
Home to Big Stone Gap

And here are some thoughts by other WANAs on this WANAfriday prompt: “This will be a good weekend for reading.”

Ellen Gregory  On a Writing, Not a Reading Retreat

The Last Meow

What? No books about cats? What’s with that?

How about reading Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron?Dwey

Or how about 100 Cats Who Changed Civilization by Sam Stall?

Cat who changed world

Go ahead. Live a little Read a book about us world-famous kitties.

Meow for now.  =<^;^>=    

WANAFriday: Red is for . . . The Red Kimono

Each Friday, the WANA112 group posts a prompt for members to consider. This week’s prompt is a color: Red.

On my desk sits a book, The Red Kimono, by Jan Morrill, featuring an exquisite red kimono on its cover.001 (23)

Jan Morrill posted Vlogs (video blogs) of short excerpts from The Red Kimono during a 30-day vlogging challenge in April, and I happened to stumble onto one of them. Her short readings intrigued me, so I bought the book on Amazon.

* * *

On December 7th, 1941,  the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor.

Japanese Americans, both naturalized and American-born, who have lived in the United States for years, now face intense social and political scrutiny based on the shape of their faces, the slant of their eyes, the language they speak in the privacy of their own homes, and the cultural differences they display. . .  all because of the aggressive actions of a country they’d left years ago.

A Japanese American family living in San Francisco (naturalized parents, American-born children) hear the sobering news report on the radio about the devastation at Pearl Harbor. Papa and Mama instinctively know their lives will change. Nobu (17) and Sachiko (9) gain that same understanding later that day. Harassment and bullying are fast teachers.

An African American family, originally from the deep South, receives news that John Terrence Harris has been killed during the Pearl Harbor attack, leaving 17-year-old Terrence and little sisters, Missy and Patty, fatherless.

Terrence, tormented by grief, vows revenge, gathers two friends to stalk a Japanese man, any Japanese man, and harass him. They find Papa in the park with Sachiko and attack, kicking and punching, leaving him so brutalized that he is hospitalized in a coma.

Two families: entangled in grief, sorrow, anger, hatred, disbelief, racism; yet there is hope, always hope.

The story unfolds for Nobu, Sachiko, Mama, and Terrence through alternating chapters. Each person carries burdensome memories, sorrows, emotions, and secrets too painful to voice. Nobu, Sachiko, and Mama struggle to understand their new lives without their beloved Papa in this strange Arkansas internment camp. Terrence struggles with black-white prejudice in jail. The outcomes for each of these casualties far from Pearl Harbor differ, and that is the story.

I enjoyed this book, though its themes are both humbling and haunting: man’s inhumanity to man brings sorrow and disrupted lives. Tragic circumstances combine to create a compelling story, and Morrill weaves it all together in her highly successful first novel.

You can find Jan Morrill on her website and her blog, Jan Morrill Writes.

* * *

Here’s how my WANA112 friends have interpreted this prompt:

Ellen Gregory: Five favourite things RED
Kim Griffin: Red, Red, They Call Me Red
Liv Rancourt: Why Red? Why Remodel? Why Make Resolutions?
Tami Clayton: The Color Red, Powerful, Luscious, and Tasty
Kim Griffin: Red, Red, They Call Me Red

Don’t Use Adverbs? Book Reviewers Use Them!

Adverbs have been thoroughly trashed in the writer’s world. Read more about that here: Who Murdered Those Poor, Pitiful Adverbs?

Even so, adverbs remain a handy tool in the writer’s toolbox. Adverbs modify (add meaning) to verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. “At their best, adverbs spice up a verb or an adjective. At their worst, they express a meaning already contained in [the verb].” Roy Peter Clark, Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer

Look carefully, and you will find those ostracized adverbs being featured prominently in book review blurbs. Check these out:

“Wickedly funny, deviously twisted and enormously satisfying. This is a big juicy bite of zombie goodness. Two decaying thumbs up!”
Jonathan Maberry on Kevin J. Anderson’s, Death Warmed Over: Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.001 (22)

“Rather than rest on her laurels, Grafton does the exact opposite, and U is for Undertow is her most structurally complex, psychologically potent book to date.”
Los Angeles Times Book Review included on flyleaf of Sue Grafton’s, V is for Vengeance

001 (26)

“A slice of American history beautifully told by three young Americans coming of age in a turbulent time.”
Jodi Thomas, New York Times best-selling author on Jan Morrill’s, The Red Kimono

001 (23)

“Move over, grumpy schoolmarms everywhere. Your time has come. For the writer or wannabe, Sin and Syntax is urgently needed, updated, and hip guide to modern language and writing.”
Jon Katz, media critic and author of Running to the Mountain, on Constance Hale’s, Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose.

001 (27)

“It’s a miracle, a daybreak, a man on the moon . . . so impeccably imagined, so courageously executed, so everlastingly moving.”
Baltimore Sun on Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close: A Novel

001 (25)

And finally, there’s this:

Adverbs by Daniel Handler

001 (24)

No, this book is not about adverbs; it’s actually an unusual love story, and let’s even say, a very unusual love story. Every chapter boasts it own adverb title: Immediately, Obviously, Arguably, Particularly, Briefly, Soundly, Frigidly, Collectively, and so on for nine more adverb-laden chapter titles. Here’s one review blurb:

“Gymnastic prose . . . brilliantly turned reminders that there are a million ways to describe love and none of them will be the last word.”
New York Times
Book Review

The Last Meow: A Cat-A-Log of Advice for Writers

So book reviewers use a lot of adverbs. Okay. Just don’t copy their style for lengthier pieces of writing. Follow the sound advice given by professional writers:

1. Use strong nouns and verbs in your writing. Don’t rely on weak adverbs to rev up common everyday verbs.

…the hackneyed result [of using weak verbs and weak adverbs] is immediately apparent.
Noah Lukeman, The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile

001 (3)

2. Use distinctive, fresh, surprising adverbs, and your writing will shine. Here are a few examples from The New Yorker:

001 (28)maddeningly inaccessible… (Tribeca Cinemas in NYC)
Silvia Killingsworth, “Takes for Two,” The New Yorker, April 1, 2013

..the large color pictures are…gritty, intimate, and bracingly authentic (Polaroids by Mike Brodie)
Chelsea Gallery, The New Yorker, April 1, 2003

…an outlandishly sensual red-vinyl church interior by Rodney McMillian
ART, Museums and Libraries, Whitney Museum of American Art, The New Yorker, April 1, 2013

mercilessly critical…
Marc Fisher, “The Master,” The New Yorker, April 1, 2013

Perhaps book reviews use too many adverbs, but adverbs can be a writer’s friend if used wisely, surprisingly, and judiciously.

And now it’s nap time. All this teaching tires me out.

Meow for Now. =<^;^>=

Pic by Haryo Bagus Handako

Pic by Haryo Bagus Handako

Tuscany in Mind – Second Time Around

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Every Friday, one member of WANA112 posts a prompt for other WANAs to consider. Here’s today’s prompt:

Second Time Around

Tell us about a book you can read again and again without getting bored — what is it that speaks to you?

Tuscany in Mind: An Anthology edited by Alice Leccese Powers. Vintage Books (Random House), New York, 2005.

I don’t remember how this book came to be in my possession, but it has traveled to Italy and back with me. It is a collection of excerpts from thirty-eight well-known authors  (e.g., James Boswell, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Charles Dickens, Henry James) and lesser-known (to me) authors (e.g., Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Kinta Beevor, Penelope Fitzgerald, and Bruce Chatwin).001 (14)

Why would this motley crew of writers write about Tuscany? Because they all lived there or vacationed there at one point in their lives and felt compelled to write about their experiences.

As I arrived in each town in Tuscany, I pulled out Tuscany In Mind and read who-said-what about the local area: Florence, Siena, Pisa, Volterra, Lucca, San Gimignano, Maremma, and other hill towns.

My favorite excerpt in the book, Any Four Women could Rob the Bank of Italy, by Ann Cornelisen, is set in San Felice Val Gufo (not far from Siena).

There, locked away from time, the San Felicians live in a closed society of intermarriage and inoccupation, insulated from life beyond the hills that surround them.

San Felicia is a town where the water tastes “froggy” by the end of the summer, where movies in the creaky old opera house tend to be ignored, and where neighbors watch neighbors through slatted window shutters to gather bits of local news. And don’t you dare get sick in San Felice; go to Siena. That is much wiser!

One day, Caroline, a well-bred Englishwoman, arrives in town. The men ogle. The women shun. The long-established order of things, suddenly fragile, begins to . . . . Well, you can imagine. When Caroline and her friends decide to rob the Bank of Italy in the cause of feminine rights, things get downright interesting.

The excerpt hooked me. I had to know what happened. When I returned home from Italy, I found the well-worn and yellowed book in the cellar of my local library, read it, laughing the whole way through, and then wrote and posted: Italy Reading: Any Four Women Could Rob the Bank of Italy.

Every time I pick up Tuscany in Mind: An Anthology, vivid memories of my own trip through Tuscany flood my mind. My trip was beyond compare, and this book contributed immeasurably to my enjoyment.  The writing in this book is exquisite, even poetic. The rustic Italian vocabulary slips into perfectly formed sentences that flow with energy and flavor. You can see Tuscany; you can hear it, touch it, feel it, and taste it. Read any of these excerpts, and you will start planning your next trip.

Other excerpts in the Tuscany in Mind include stories of romance, food, wine, complex relationships, history, art, architecture, gardens, and so much more. It’s hard to put Tuscany into words, but these writers have done it well and tease you into seeking out and reading their full works. Alice Leccese Powers has done an incredible job selecting and excerpting the best of the best.

Be sure to check these WANA bloggers and their second time around book choices:

Ellen Gregory: The Lions of Al-Rassan
Margaret Miller: On the Beach
Rabia Gale: Howl’s Moving Castle
Linda Adams:  The Beauty of Omniscient Viewpoint
Cora Ramos: Mistress on Synchronicity
Kim Griffin: The Hunger Games
Tami Clayton: Charlotte’s Web, Harry Potter Bks, Time Traveler’s Wife, Cabin Pressure
Seth Swanson, Jedi, Elantris, Monster Hunt Intl

The Last Meow

Italians say “Ciao” for “good-bye.” Ciao sounds like chow. Is it time to eat yet?

kitten-eating

Meow for now. Ciao!  =<^;^>=

V is for. . . Vampires Invade Grammar World

V-Day in the A to Z Challenge!a-to-z-letters-2013

Four days left in the challenge, but there are some tough letters yet to come: W, X, Y, Z.

Let’s have a go at V.

Karen Elizabeth Gordon, author of The Transitive Vampire: A Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed, loves vampires, demons, gargoyles, mastodons, and other dark creatures of the night.

Why? Because she thinks they can teach us about grammar.

001 (8)Originally published in 1984, a new edition of this book was released in 1993. Evidently there were more monsters to be found in the deep, dark, dank grammar cellar. Despite its age, The Transitive Vampire holds the number 53 spot of best selling grammar books on Amazon.com. Monsters do not slink away, it seems.

Gordon has a positive use for the gnarly “menange of revolving lunatics” that invade her book, and that is to teach grammar to the wary. Even her definition of grammar has demons in it.

Grammar is a sine qua non of language, placing its demons in the light of sense, sentencing them to the plight of prose.

And the lunatics? Their stories and digressions lead through a formidable labyrinth, through the dark tunnel of myths and mistakes to the light at the end of the tunnel: pure and lovely understanding of grammar. A feat not lightly accomplished.

The creatures teach about sentences. Here is a little tasty bite for your chewing pleasure. First subjects of sentences:

 There were fifty-five lusterless vampires  dismantling the schloss.

Predicates:

The werewolf     had a toothache.
The persona non gratia    was rebuked.

Gordon marches her vampires and demons through the parts of speech (“verbs are the heartthrob of sentences”) up through phrases and clauses, and ends with comma splices and the creation of sentences.

Go ahead. Get this book and keep it on your nightstand. Read some of it every night. The artwork and the characters will keep you turning the pages well into the witching hours, and you will have such pleasant dreams about grammar. *devilish laugh here* *wolf howls in the distance* *skeleton bones rattle*

001 (11)

Gordon also wrote The New Well-Tempered Sentence: A Punctuation Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed, 19981 and 1993. This book is guaranteed to entertain as you review the rules of punctuation you learned in grammar school but promptly forgot.

The Last Meow.

monster catMonsters? Demons? Ha. We can play that game. Check us out!

Don’t mind that other kitty. She’s just a scaredy-cat.

Meow for now.  ={`;`}=

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