Friday, July 3, 2015

The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century

The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st CenturyThe Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book provides reference material as well as conceptual information about writing and word usage. The author's message to purists is "Language is always changing, get used to it." Language has been going to hell for a very long time: “According to the English scholar Richard Lloyd-Jones, some of the clay tablets deciphered from ancient Sumerian include complaints about the deteriorating writing skills of the young.”

Pinker provides plenty of details about the nuts and bolts of sentence structure and larger "arcs of coherence" that help readers decode the meaning an author intends.

My favorite concept from this book is the "zombie noun" a nickname coined by Helen Sword for an unnecessary nominalization that hides the agent of action. "The proliferation of nominalizations in a discursive formation may be an indication of a tendency toward pomposity and abstraction." That translates in plain English to "Writers who overload their sentences with nouns derived from verbs and adjectives tend to sound pompous and abstract."

Since he is exposed to a great deal of academic writing, he explores how knowing a great deal about a subject can make an author the worst possible person to write about it. “The better you know something, the less you remember about how hard it was to learn. The curse of knowledge is the single best explanation I know of why good people write bad prose.”

I also enjoyed his ironic sense of humor. “Unfortunately for cosmic justice, many gifted writers are scoundrels, and many inept ones are the salt of the earth.”

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Nature Journal

The hardest part is diving into that pristine white page. Phew! That's over. And even if my day lilies resemble a Star Trek tribble more than a botanical specimen, I enjoyed myself!

Fridays This Summer: Nature Journal

Nature Journal: A Guided Journal for Illustrating and Recording Your Observations of the Natural WorldNature Journal: A Guided Journal for Illustrating and Recording Your Observations of the Natural World by Clare Walker Leslie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This (mostly) blank journal has examples and prompts by the author to get you started in your own journal. Nice to have these samples in the journal, so you don't have to take another book along with you when you head outdoors. That being said, the other books by Clare Walker Leslie are 5-star wonders, if you are interested in learning more.

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I'm hoping that we can get out for walks on our local trail at least once a week this summer. We have our new journals to fill with our finds. Last week dd slipped and fell in the mud. Today it was ds. Next week should be my turn. Maybe I'll smear some of the mud in my journal if that happens. As dd said, "Getting dirty is part of being outdoors."

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Monday, June 8, 2015

Seabird

SeabirdSeabird by Holling Clancy Holling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The descriptions of whaling disturbed my daughter so much we didn't finish this book when she did AO2. This year my son was fine with it. Overall, an interesting history of early ships and commerce. My son was most impressed that the main character Ezra lived over 100 years! He must have been a tough old salt.

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Wildflower Posy

Willoughby stopped by this morning with some lovely blooms. Yes, Jane is holding the wrong book, but he forgave her.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A Feather To Fly With

A Feather To Fly WithA Feather To Fly With by Joyce Harmon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very few Regency romances can evoke Georgette Heyer these days as well as Joyce Harmon's "A Feather to Fly With." The heroine finds herself without said "feather" or funds and determines to swindle her way to financial success. She has no interest in marrying a fortune when she can get one by her wits, so she's a mystery to the members of the ton.

The reversal of typical romance roles with a savvy heroine and a somewhat clueless hero (at least socially clueless) was a nice twist. Arthur Ramsey, Duke of Winton, is worse than a rake (in terms of Beau Monde regency society); he is a scholar! He needs to find a wife, but hasn't a clue, so his friend Justin Amesbury helps him navigate the intricacies of a London season. This proves a challenging proposition, as Winton has been buried in his scientific studies and knows little of fashionable life. At one point, Justin suggests that Arthur send a book as a gift to a London beauty he is pursuing. Arthur's choice of reading material is "Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy" by Isaac Newton! Ultimately, the lady accepts the duke's proposal, much to Amesbury's chagrin: he realizes that he's in love with her. Is it too late?

Cleo Cooper is in London to effect a reversal of fortune for her family. Living overseas with her brother and her artist father, the family was swindled by an Englishman calling himself the Baron Marcuse. After their father's death, Cleo (named after Cleopatra) and her brother Han (Hannibal) return to London, hoping to find Marcuse, but he has disappeared. Nearly penniless, they make a plan to win a fortune by placing bets in Town on Newmarket horse races. Their insider information comes via Han's carrier pigeons. Han and Cleo dress as gypsies to attend the races, then send off the names of the winners to their accomplices in London. At one of the races, Arthur recognizes Cleo in disguise, having met her in Town after her aunt presents her to society. While the duke is shocked at her criminal activity, he admires her sharp mind and love of scientific inquiry. Meanwhile, Amesbury is certain that Cleo is a fortune hunter after Winton's money. There are loads of misunderstandings to be sorted out here, with plenty of amusing scenes along the way.

Readers of Heyer will enjoy the twists and turns that ensue as much as the secondary characters that add humor and depth to the romantic narrative. A particular favorite is the General, an amnesiac soldier that Cleo and Han rescued from a Spanish battlefield, near death. He becomes their servant and helps them through some scrapes.

This is an excellent contemporary regency, one of the best I've read. This is one of my favorite passages:

"At supper, she considered Winton and concluded that he was the most suitable of all her court of admirers. In addition to the things that impressed society, the title and the wealth, he was also handsome (though his friend Amesbury was handsomer, she had to admit). And he was a genuinely nice man. He was not a rank snob, as many of the nobility could be toward an untitled country squire's daughter. Nor was he arrogant, condescending, indifferent or cruel. He did not drink to excess and according to all reports, he didn't gamble at all. He was entirely ideal. Felicity only wished she understood what he was talking about."

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