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Archive for May, 2011

The Ultimate Book of Words You Should Know When there is a book store nearby, I just have to walk through it — even if there is no real reason to do so.  One day while taking a detour through the mini Borders at Mililani Town Center, this title popped out from the rest: The Ultimate Book of Words You Should Know.

“Really?  Well then, we need to buy it so we can be sure we know them then, don’t we!”  How can you avoid a snide comment like that?  Well, only a book junkie or a word nerd would buy a book like that with such an obnoxious title.  Yeah, I bought the book.

It looks boring on the outside but do not be fooled —  it is all about what you make out of it.  My mother and I have used this funny little book to play a reverse crossword game.  I give her a word and she provides the definition.  It is really amazing how she gets almost all of them.  Trust me, I do try to select words that are rather obscure and unfamiliar to me but she is still able to provide the definitions.  Mom has a great vocabulary!

In addition to finding a game or two to play, it helps to have a peculiar little writing blog like this one to not only talk about the book but to find useful words to share.  I started to dog-ear the bottom corners of certain pages where there were intriguing and/or useful words.

This book is full of fun little word treasures and I will be sure to add my favorites to the Wonderful World of Words page eventually, with a note about where they came from of course.  I have not done so yet but I will be sure to edit this part of this post when I do.

Opening the book to see the dog-eared pages.

Amazon.com, unfortunately, does not have any copies of The Ultimate Book of Words You Should Know for sale but they do have a link to copies available from these sellers.  You can get a copy for practically nothing!  BUT, Amazon does have a previous edition that is labeled The Big Book of Words You Should Know: Over 3,000 Words Every Person Should be Able to Use (And a few that you probably shouldn’t).  I like that title!  Some of my favorite words are probably among the “few that you probably shouldn’t” use.

Nobody would want my copy with all of its dog-eared corners and tiny little pen marks.  Besides, I cannot see myself parting with it anytime soon.  It has become an educational toy and I highly recommend this smorgasbord of words you can actually use — even if you are only using them to be extremely snotty at the next function you plan to attend.

With more than 3,000 words, this book is as complete a word reference you can get without reading through the dictionary. Each entry comprises a concise definition as well as an edified example, so you can augment your lexical knowledge without sounding unenlightened. So, keep this compendious reference close by and never find yourself at a loss for words again!

I guess this is a book review so I will include the following:

The Ultimate Book of Words You Should Know (or The Big Book of Words You Should Know: Over 3,000 Words Every Person Should be Able to Use)
by David Olsen, Michelle Bevilacqua, and Justin Cord Hayes
Published by Adamsmedia
Avon, Massachusetts

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The Priest's Graveyard by Ted DekkerBefore I start, let me just say that all writers need to be so careful what they say when dealing with different countries — their cultures, ethnicities, and their respective religions.  You never know who will pick up your writing, or how sensitive your chosen topic might be for some readers.

Were it not for that great title and the fascinating book cover, I would have tossed this book on the side.  Why?  Uh, because of this:

I grew up in a small town in northern Bosnia, and was fifteen when the civil war between the Croats and the Serbs began in earnest.  There were many reasons for the war, but the only thing I came to care about was that Orthodox Christians were killing Catholic Christians.  

Had I been in Borders or Barnes & Noble and flipped to that page, I would have hissed and dumped it right back on the table where I found it!   I am an Orthodox Christian with some very wonderful friends who are Serbian.  You have hit me below the belt twice with just that one paragraph.

I am also sensitive to the faulty smear campaigns that the various media outlets are capable of and I learned, not so very long ago, that our country lied to us.  This is not the topic of this post but I just needed to share the dangers of dealing with cultural sensitivities and governmental propaganda.

Now that I have read that quote over and over, time and time again, I am able to put a slightly different spin on what the author could have meant by that statement and I remind myself that this book is fiction!  Those Balkan wars (the one in 1992 that the author refers to is just one of several in that region) were not always as much about religion as they were about ethnicity and territorial rights.  Let me also remind, or inform, people — Serbia, like Greece, Russia, and others, has historically been an Orthodox country.  With that in mind, almost any Serbian soldier is bound to be an Orthodox Christian!

Yeah, that paragraph pissed me off. Big time! So I had to look into this and, aside from the more recent wrongs done in Serbia, there has actually been a lot written about 1992.  The Washington Post had a helpful article.  Here is a snippet from that article that draws a clearer picture:

As tensions continued to smolder beneath the surface in Croatia in mid-1992, an all-out war broke out in neighboring Bosnia between the republic’s ethnic Serbs, Muslims and Croats. The Bosnian conflict drew in participants from all sides, including Croatia, which backed the Bosnian Croats in their fight mainly with Bosnian Serbs but also in sporadic conflicts with its supposed ally, the Bosnian Muslims.

In late 1992, Croatian army forces began attacking Bosnian Serb communities in southeastern Bosnia Herzegovina, unraveling a Bosnian-declared cease-fire and drawing a warning from Yugoslavia, which threatened to intervene on behalf of the Serbs. Croatian army forces would later break Croatia’s one-year-old cease-fire as well in January 1993, crossing a U.N. dividing line and attacking Serb-occupied territory in Krajina.

Authors, please, please be careful!  I did read a few other reviews and I am NOT the only one who found this to be an issue; I just feel a little more strongly about it.  This is the end of my rant about this.

By the time readers have gotten this far, the only ones who are probably still reading are the author himself and/or, maybe, the publisher.  It is safe to say that neither one of them will be sorry that they made it this far or that they are (if they are) still reading.  Sorry guys, I just had to make my point!

As much as I wanted to find a way to hate this book, I owed it to the publisher to not just give up.  In reality, I could not stop reading the damn thing!  I had to know what was going to happen to that stupid girl who was all strung-out on drugs and was picked up by some supposed hero who literally picked her up off the street like a sack of potatoes.  I still think she was stupid and I still do not like her very much.  I understood her drug-drama as we face the crystal meth horror all around us in our own lives.  The only difference was that her problem was heroin. The picture drawn by the author was the same — she was physically and mentally messed up!

The person who picked her up and carried her off (like a sack of potatoes) was a man she saw as her savior.  No, he was just another horror — a control freak who turned her into his private slave.  She was just too ignorant and messed up to see him for what he really was.

It is hard to give you a plot description without being a spoiler.  The descriptions I have seen just don’t  seem to fully capture the essence of this novel.  The story is a strange one with two people who are equally messed up, just in different ways.  Their paths collide and things just get weirder.  While reading The Priest’s Graveyard, there was one thing that came to mind several times:  it is extremely important that children are not neglected or abused!  There is a good chance that those children will become very messed up adults!

When talking about books we often hear phrases like, “it was a page-turner!”  I must say, that is exactly what it was (or a button-pusher if you own a digital copy).  My review copy, that was sent to me, for free, for review (I am required to tell you that part), did not get to me until it was almost Kindle-ready.  I tried everything to get my hands on it because USPS was taking waaay too long!  I ended up with a pre-order copy from Amazon (which I PAID FOR!) that appeared on my Kindle soon after the mailman finally brought the hard cover.  Tsk!

Be that as it may, it was oh so very worth it!  Now that I have both a hard copy and a digital one, Mr. Dekker needs to get himself to Honolulu so I can get my copy signed.  Yeah, I liked it and I like the author.  Somehow he was able to keep the story moving and the pages turning.  There was nothing to stall a reader and no parts that bogged you down with more information than you needed or wanted to hear.

That one bothersome quote was not the only one that referenced that same topic but at some point I ignored them for what they were — erroneous.  There were other quotes that are much more worth talking about!

Danny, “The Priest,” saw violence as something used for both good and evil when he thought,

“Angels and demons had both wielded violence and would again, surely.  As would so-called God and the so-called devil.”

Well, that kind of makes you wonder about the faith of this priest, doesn’t it?  “So-called?”   I’m not going to argue with that statement;  it is quoted here as just one of the examples of the food-for-thought passages that frequented the pages of this somber tale.  Somber is used here as an observation, and almost a compliment.  There was little to giggle about and the story was troubling and all too believable!

“The Priest” starts looking at himself and doesn’t always like what he sees.

“My judgment of others is my sin.  If I clean my heart so that I can judge, it dirties again the first time I judge again.  I am on a terrible path with so much judgment in my heart.”

Now there’s a statement!  I’ll wager that we all share that uncomfortable realization, to varying degrees.  It is all about how you act on them.

Amazon.com always likes to include clips from other authors when talking about new books.  I like reading those and these two hit the nail on the head:

“Here’s the best part about The Priest’s Graveyard: It’s smart enough to realize that, for many, the scariest thing in life isn’t a monster or something that bumps in the night. It’s love. Love is terrifying. And powerful. And unstoppable. And if you don’t already know that, you’re about to see why. The Priest’s Graveyard will haunt you — long after you want it to.”
— Brad Meltzer, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Book of Fate and The Inner Circle

“If you’ve never visited Ted Dekker’s world, do it. The Priest’s Graveyard is perfect entertainment. Beguiling, compelling, challenging, and riveting–fantastic gimmick-free storytelling–that’s what you get with Ted Dekker. Don’t pass this up.”
— Steve Berry, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Emperor’s Tomb

I agree with both of these writers.  I liked it.  A lot.  My only complaint (aside from that objectionable paragraph) is that I wanted more.

While I had a hard time shaking off the way this story began, I am afraid I will have an even harder time shaking off the characters that this novel almost forces a reader to bond with.

If you want to understand the author better and take a step back from some of what you are reading, check out his Facebook page.  I love Facebook at times like this!  Reading about the author helped me shed some misconceptions and helped me through my anger.  Make sure you read the part labeled “Who is Ted Dekker?

To the author I say, “Thank you, Mr. Dekker, for not letting me hate you!”  I love this author and, I am sorry to admit that, I love Danny too!  How do you get attached to such a confused killer?  Read The Priest’s Graveyard
and find out!  You’ll see!

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