Monday, January 18, 2010

Many Books About Which to Write

(I tried to write it: "Many books to write about", truly I did, but I just couldn't!)

I have neglected this blog long enough. I have a list of wonderful books I've read over the past year, and I'm going to try to start on that list this month. Real life gets in the way of blogging sometimes, but that is really no excuse. It doesn't take long to write a quick post about a book.

Here are some of the books I've enjoyed over the past few months:

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley -- WONDERFUL, award-winning novel. If you haven't read it, do so, and if you get the chance to listen to it on audio, do so. Jayne Entwistle does a marvelous job narrating.

Before the Season Ends and The House in Grovesnor Square by Linore Rose Burkard. These were both really wonderful historical novels, nice, clean, relaxing feel-good reads, and I need to write about them because she has a new one out (third in the series) this month!

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Echo, A Person of Interest by Susan Choi, The Amber Room, The Romanov Prophecy, and The Third Secret by Steve Berry, and all of the "Cotton Malone" books by Steve Berry, beginning with The Templar Legacy (the other five I have yet to read). These are all older books that I really should have already read; I REALLY don't know how I missed reading The Name of the Rose.

A few more that I read and want to write about are: What Hath God Wrought by Daniel Walker Howell, My Dearest Friend: Letters of John and Abigail Adams, and Country Cooking from Central France.

Quite an ambitious list, eh?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Loud "Huzzah" to Captain Frances Grose

From My Reference Shelves . . .

. . . comes an interesting little book ~~

1811 Dictionary of The Vulgar Tongue
with a Foreword by Robert Cromie

If you read literature written in the 1700s to early 1800s, or historical fiction that has been set during this time period, you are probably familiar with many of the colorful expressions used then, the "cant" and slang of the day. Or if you are a writer of historical fiction set during the Georgian or Regency periods of England, you may have an author's interest in the expressions in use during that time. I have such an interest, and that is how I came upon this little gem of a book.

My copy is a 1971 edition and is unabridged from the original 1811 edition with a foreword by Robert Cromie of the Chicago Tribune. The inside title page announces rather grandly, "1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. A Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit, and Pickpocket Eloquence."

The original "Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue" was put together by Frances Grose, an 18th century antiquarian, back in 1785, and was titled "A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue." And, by the way, the word "vulgar", as it is used here, is in its original definition of meaning "commonplace, ordinary" or in "common or ordinary usage." Yes, some of the expressions and words in this dictionary were meant to be crude when they were used, but most are simply the slang of the day.

The foreword by Cromie is as much fun to read as the dictionary itself. The blurb on the back of the book describes it as "An entertaining insight into the slang, wit and humor of late 18th and early 19th century England, when a 'Flaybottomist' was a school teacher, a 'Carrion Hunter' an undertaker, and a 'Buttock Broker' a matchmaker. Many words had different meanings then -- 'High Living' meant 'to lodge in a garret or cockloft,' a 'Faggot' was a stand-in soldier and, with special apologies to today's feminists, 'To Lib' meant 'to lie together.' And, believe it or not, a 'Pig' was a policeman."

I wanted to pick out a few good ones to write about here, but it is just so hard to pick only a few. And actually I believe it would be better if I wrote about actual words or expressions culled from this book in my "usage" blog, I Stand Corrected, don't you think? So I'm going to mirror this entry over there or at least link to it, and I know this book will provide much good fodder for posts at that blog.

If you should ever have the opportunity to read this book, or any of the editions of this book, do so. As Cromie says, ". . . it is great fun to read through, or browse in, this gathering of words . . . . They will delight and instruct you, shock and intrigue you, titillate and anger you, but they will never bore you."

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Around For One Whole Year

I missed the December 15 One Year Anniversary of this journal/blog, so I'll wish it a Happy Anniversary today!

And I need to get on here and make some new entries. It isn't as if I don't have plenty of books sitting around just waiting to be written about!

So, coming soon:

Protecting the Gift, by Gavin de Becker

Whiskey Galore, by Compton Mackenzie

Water on the Brain, by Compton Mackenzie

1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, Francis Grose

The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations

Thursday, October 16, 2008

From My Crime/Detective Fiction Shelves

About a month ago I suddenly got a "hankering" for some crime fiction. I was in the mood to re-read some I hadn't read in a while, but I sneaked a new one or two in there, too. I'm not a big fan of gory crime fiction. I like technical novels like Kathy Reichs' Temperence Brennan books (I like the TV series "Bones", but the books are much, much better), cloak and dagger stuff from Tom Clancy, law-related crime drama from John Grishom, light and funny detective fiction like the Stephanie Plum novels from Janet Evanovich, and even lighter, but very witty and funny books like Diana Mott Davidson's amateur sleuth caterer, Goldy Bear.

I thought I'd
share a few of the books I've read recently.

Michael Connelly never disappoints. Harry Bosch is one of my very favorite characters. He's a real man's man and a homicide detective's homicide detective. I like him because he comes off so real because of the way Connelly creates him. I can't remember the first Bosch novel I read, but I've since read most of them. Somehow The Concrete Blonde had escaped me until recently, so it's a new addition to my shelves.

In The Concrete Blonde a serial killer's widow is suing Bosch and the LAPD for killing the wrong man. And when a new victim is found with the "Dollmaker's" signature marks, it looks like the widow may be right. It's a fast-paced thrill ride a
s Bosch tracks the blood-thirsty killer. The Concrete Blonde is more than detective fiction, more than courtroom fiction (although there is a really, really good courtroom scene), it's a great who-dunnit, which is probably my favorite kind of crime fiction. Check out a copy at your local library if you haven't read it yet.

The first book I read b
y Catherine Coulter was Eleventh Hour, and it is still a favorite of mine of her novels. Point Blank is an FBI crime thriller that I had never read before. I was a bit disappointed in it. It featured the recurring characters of married (to each other) agents Savitch and Sherlock, whom I have come to like and respect. My personal favorite Coulter-created character Agent Dane Carver is in this one, too, and Agent Ruth Warnecki, whom I have to admit is an interesting character. Actually I like all the main "good guy" characters, but the book itself just wasn't as seamless as I like a good mystery to be. There are two plots going on simultaneously. Savitch and Sherlock (and Dane and everyone on their FBI team) are after an insane, hate-filled old man (who has a grudge against Savitch) and his psychotic and blood-thirsty girl friend. I really had to suspend disbelief with a lot of the plot twists and a lot of the dialogue as well. There were just too many passages that seemed to be either hastily stitched together or written with one hand while the author was yawning behind the other. The other plot involves a fortune in Confederate gold that amateur-spelunker Warnecki is searching for in a cave in Virginia. A dead body found in the cave opens up a whole other investigation, led by the local sheriff. Ruth and the sheriff provide a nice romantic sub-plot, but it's too little to save the book for me. Savitch and Sherlock drift in and out, helping with Ruth and the sheriff's investigation while they keep looking for the insane old man. Of course, there are completely happy endings in the end, but I actually had to make myself finish it -- mainly because I wanted to know the answer to the who-dunnit of the cave murder. It wasn't who I thought it would be. This is not a book that I'll read again, so I'll pass it on to someone else. There were too many "huh?" moments for me. It was not the serious detective novel that I want to read from Coulter.

Next I turned to an old favorite spy-mystery that I haven't visited in several years. Dorothy Gilman created a wonderful Marple-esque character in Mrs. Emily Pollifax. We are introduced to her in the first of a lengthy series, The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax. She's an elderly widow who has decided she is not going to go gently into that good night -- she takes martial arts lessons when she's not busy with her gardening club -- and suddenly she takes it into her head to fulfill a childhood ambition that she should volunteer her services to the CIA. She applies in person and through a misunderstanding is given a courier's job. Of course the simple courier's mission turns into something quite unexpected, and Mrs. Pollifax finds herself a prison in a prison in Albania with a very important piece of microfilm that she doesn't even know she has. She acquires a very interesting "partner", and between the two of them, using each one's unusual skills and resourcefulness manage to escape from the enemy and return to the States with the microfilm. I really do love this book. It's comical and witty, and Mrs. Pollifax is very endearing. She takes a personal interest in everyone she meets, and that always seems to pay off. If you've never read any of these books, start with this one and then go on to the others, of which I'll write soon -- because now that I've read the first one, I have to go through the whole series. Oh, and the "partner" she acquires in Albania? Well, he graces the pages of subsequent Pollifax novels. Yes, you may have to suspend disbelief, but it's well-written, so you don't care. It's a fast, funny, smooth, enjoyable read, and if it's new to you, I recommend you give it a try.

Well, that's it for my shelves tonight. I'll be back soon with a few more picks.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


I'm so happy that the migration from AOL Journals went well. I do enjoy writing about the books on my shelves, and I plan to continue to do so here at this new location. Please check back in with me once in a while.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Within a few days I will begin migrating Dusty Pages Books Shelves over to Blogspot.  I will leave a link to the new blog here if possible.  If not possible, I will also leave a link to the new blog in my new Dusty Pages blog on blogspot.  That URL is


Monday, March 31, 2008

From My Reference Shelves . . .

      The Oxford Dictionary of

                      English Etymology

One of my favorite books on my shelves is The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, edited by C. T. Onions and first published in 1966.  My copy is a 1974 printing, large, hard-cover, with no dust-jacket, that I bought on eBay.  It is in excellent condition, and although it gets a pretty good workout from me, I am, so far, keeping it in excellent condition.

The publisher's note inside described Dr. Onions as the last of the editors of the original Oxford English Dictionary.  He died while the 1966 version that he edited was going through the press. 

Dr. Onions joined the staff of The Oxford English Dictionary in 1895.  He published a Shakespeare Glossary in 1911, and that is next on my list of book "wants". 

The Oxford English Dictionary of Etymology has 24,000 main entries, digging into the origins of more than 38,000 words.  For each entry the dictionary gives the pronunciation, a short definition, and the century and source of the word's first recording.