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08 January 2011

Book Review: Words from the Myths

Words from the MythsWords from the Myths by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book.

It's mannered.  It's old-fashioned.   The back-flap "about the author" blurb is charmingly cheeky.

But it is chock full of interesting tidbits about the parts of our language that originate in myth.  Chock.  Full.

We all know why the Achilles tendon is called that but who knew that the word "stentorian" comes from a minor character in Homer, Stentor, who was a herald who was able to rally the army effectively because he had a voice as loud as fifty men?  And who knew that there is a one-celled creature called "stentor" because it is shaped like a megaphone?

Why do we sometimes swear "By Jiminy?"  Well, because of Castor and Pollux, of course, the twins of Gemini.  The Romans respected them and often swore by them.  Apparently we still do, too.

This book is 220 pages of "Oh!  Really?  Wow!"  And it only makes it more readable that the style is so proper and mannered yet intimate, like a face-to-face conversation.

This is a book I should read again.  And again.  And then again once more.

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Book Review: Death and the Dancing Footman

Death and the Dancing FootmanDeath and the Dancing Footman by Ngaio Marsh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ah, Ngaio Marsh.  What is it about you that I don't really care about whodunit?

I figured this one out.  Easily.  The mystery was thin and rather transparent.

But who cares?  Especially when one gets to relish in her characterizations and her way with words.  Descriptions like these make these cozies worth reading, even if you aren't a mystery buff;

"A popinjay," he muttered, "a stock figure of dubious gallantry."  And he pronounced the noise usually associated with the word "Pshaw."

"... [he's] bone from the eyes up if you try to talk about anything that's not quite his language."  

After a good deal of demurring, Jonathan finally rang the bell.  Caper answered it and accepted the news of sudden death and homicide with an aplomb which Mandrake had imagined to be at the command only of family servants in somewhat dated comedies."  

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Book Review: Peter and the Starcatchers

Peter and the Starcatchers (Peter and the Starcatchers, #1)Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I spent many moments while reading this book wondering how two people, who live in different cities and possess remarkably different writing styles, could possibly write a book together.

By the time I was finished, I decided they did it kind of like that parlour game where one person in the room starts a potboiler, spins it to a cliffhanger and then hands it to another person, who then continues the potboiler and spins it to yet another cliffhanger.  And so on.  The parlour-game-potboiler becomes, by design, overly long with too many needless cliffhangers.

Which kind of describes this book.  Not that it wasn't a fun read.  But I could have done without about half of the obstacles and cliffhangers.

Clever by half in explaining the genesis of Peter Pan, the Lost Boys and Captain Hook.  Oh, and Tinkerbell in the last two pages.

A tad too violent for my now almost seven year old but a good book for the "read-when-older" shelf.  An adventure he'll most likely enjoy.

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