Book Reviews

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“Lookin’ for a wedding?” he asked in a lazy drawl. When G.W. Vandermark first meets beautiful Lizzy Decker, his world is turned upside down. At the busy train station in Philadelphia, Lizzy, a stunning, blue-eyed petite blonde, is accompanied by G.W.’s level-headed sister, Deborah Vandermark.

Lizzy and Deborah have just finished college and are returning to Deborah’s hometown in Eastern Texas.

For G.W, the most unusual thing about his sister’s companion is a long bridal gown she chooses to wear for the arduous trip. Lizzy has barely escaped a wedding and an overbearing groom she does not love. She now depends on Deborah and Deborah’s “backwoods bumpkin” brother to provide a safe refuge for her.

Embers of Love is the first of the three novels by Tracie Peterson in her latest historical inspirational series, Striking a Match (Embers of Love, Hearts Aglow, Hope Rekindled). Set in a small logging community of Perkinsville in June 1885, this novel portrays lives of two intelligent, educated young women whose thinking are ahead of their time.

Two long-standing schools of thought have dominated discussion in grammar. The prescriptive school looks at the way the language ought to be used. Its adherents set out the rules of grammar as the standard to follow. The alternative, descriptive approach views language as living and evolving – language as it's used.

In The Glamour of Grammar: A Guide to the Mystery and Magic of Practical English, Roy Peter Clark thoroughly explores the shift from the notions of how people ought to speak (prescriptive) versus how they do in fact speak (descriptive).

For instance, “Where you at?” is a common question in current, regional discourse.  The prescriptive approach would pronounce this a faulty use of grammar, arguing it violates both the rule of a complete sentence needing a verb, and the rule not to end a sentence with a preposition. Prescriptivists may go even so far as to suggest that the speaker is uneducated, using sub-standard English.

By contrast, the descriptive perspective would recognize this question as an expression commonly used. The only measure it must meet is: Does it, in fact, communicate? If the person hearing it understands what is being asked, it qualifies as acceptable, and may be considered even to be an advancement or evolution of the English language.

Humor is so subjective. And sometimes it's gender specific. We've tried, guys. Honestly, we have. But we just don't understand why you're so amused with the sound effects produced from every orifice and contortion of your bodies.

Women have enough body issues, thankyouverymuch, and rarely do we find anything to laugh at, even if it is slipping faster than a buffalo on a banana peel.
Here are four classic literary romps guaranteed to tickle your feminine funnybone.

Women find enough humor in the comedies that pass for our daily lives. Which is why we love Judy Blume's pre-teen classic, Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret. Our gal suffers through all the growing pains some of us still experience: boy-girl parties, looking for religion, and wearing handknit sweaters made "expressly for you" by grandma.

Nothing sends us into gales of laughter quicker than the phrase "fix up." Our favorite matchmaker is Emma. Jane Austen's heroine is so loveably clueless and stubborn in her altruistic righteousness, we can't help but smile when she fashionably wears egg on her face once all her love schemes implode.

John McPhee is 80 years old, has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1965 and has written 28 books. Mr. McPhee has written about Arthur Ashe, Bill Bradley, oranges, Alaska, human-powered flight, a cattle-brands inspector and several books on geology. While factual in nature, his work has the power to draw the reader into the world of each essay’s topic like a good novel.

Reading any McPhee book is a joy but Silk Parachute is something new for him. His beautiful craftsmanship, highly detailed description and ability to turn what, at first glance, would seem mundane into a can't-put-it-down page-turner are all here. But in one significant way, it's different. He writes about himself.

The titular first essay is about his mother and things she did for him when he was young that formed his life -- taking him to the theater and the observation deck at LaGuardia to watch the DC3s land and the gift of a toy silk parachute that "always returned safely to earth". In three-and-a-half pages he calls up scores of images that leave you overflowing with admiration for this now 99-year-old woman.

Omar Khayyam (1048-1131 AD) was a mathematician and philosopher at a time and place where such were highly valued fields of endeavor. His work on algebra was a pioneering effort in the discipline. Outside of Persia (modern-day Iran), Khayyam is known primarily as the author of the Rubaiyat.

During his lifetime he was not renowned for his poetry, nor was this type of poetry considered high art. It wasn't until the 19th Century, in fact, that Khayyam got his due.

It was largely thanks to Edward FitzGerald’s translation of some of these poems that the Rubaiyat is regarded a classic work today. From 1859 to 1889, FitzGerald published 5 translations (numbers 2-5 were modifications and expansions of his first attempt – the fifth translation was published posthumously).

It must be noted that FitzGerald’s translations are not strictly accurate – they owe a lot to FitzGerald’s own poetic sense. Still, they capture the spirit of Khayyam’s work, even if in a somewhat romanticized way. The title comes from the ruba’i – a Persian poetic form consisting of couplets, in which there is a rhyme scheme of AA BA in the two lines. FitzGerald cast the couplets as quatrains, with each line roughly equal to a half line in the original.

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