Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Is That a Word?

Is That A Word?by David Bukszpan


Scrabble is a fantastic way to spend the time with family.  I remember playing it as a kid on family vacations. I remember playing it with my (nerdy) friends on camping trips.  I know that since it was invented in the 30s and especially when it exploded in popularity in the 50s it’s been a part of life all around the world, especially in countries that use the Latin alphabet.

One of the things I remember best, though, is arguing about whether a word is legitimate or not.  Sure, we can look it up, but can we all even agree on which language to use?  Do we use Oxford? Collins?  Merriam-Webster?  Most of them have the same words, but not all of them have all of the same ones, particularly not those that are short or obscure  

 

This isn’t a recommendation for a dictionary, though.  I find dictionaries to be fascinating but I recognise they are not exactly compelling reading for everyone.  Is That a Word? by David Bukszpan is the history of the Scrabble lexicon.  What makes a word legal in Scrabble? Why are things like “za” (short for pizza) legal, but not proper names?  Who even decides what is acceptable? 

 

Is That a Word? is a surprisingly readable history of the game and a fun explanation of why the official word list (the “OWL”) used in tournaments is so odd.  The first few chapters discuss the invention of the game, many of the variants and spinoffs, as well as where the official word list came from. 

 

The bulk of the book is really just a list of the stranger words allowable in the game broken down into various categories.  Words that seem like they shouldn’t be allowable if you are used to thinking about them in the wrong context.  In theory, you shouldn’t be able to use people’s names such as John or Smith, but john (a toilet) and smith (a person who makes horseshoes) are perfectly acceptable. 

 

Of course, you could use the Official Scrabble Dictionary to learn all these words.  But that’s just a long list of words and meanings.  Is That a Word? is also a long list of words, but with more context and a lot more humour.  If you want to be able to dominate in Scrabble and be able to back up your boasting, this is a great way to learn. 

Chop Suey Nation

Chop Suey Nationby Ann Hui

I grew up on the prairies and fondly remember the seemingly exotic Chinese diners in little towns like Nanton, Vulcan and Drumheller, Alberta. As a kid, Chop Suey and the gooey orange sauce over the Sweet & Sour Chicken were my favourites. It was surprising to learn Chinese diner dishes have little to do with traditional Chinese Cuisine. In fact, the literal translation of Chop Suey is “Assorted scraps. Bits and pieces. This and that.”

In 2016, Globe and Mail reporter Ann Hui (Vancouver born) hit the road to answer two questions: Why is there a Chinese restaurant in every Canadian small town? And who are the families who run them? Driving from sea to sea, Hui discovers the unlikely history behind classics like Ginger Beef, the hard-to-imagine Chinese Perogies of Alberta, and Newfoundland Chow Mein.

Among the many restaurant owners, Hui also finds the re-occurring themes of perseverance, humility, and love for family. There’s the restaurant owner/small-town mayor, the owner of a restaurant in a Thunder Bay curling rink, and the woman in remote Fogo Island who runs a restaurant alone, 365 days a year. While all of them are Chinese, their stories are universal and remind us of the mammoth challenges faced by many immigrants from around the world. Starting new lives in dusty or rocky little Canadian towns is really, really hard, but there’s no looking back.

Every other chapter also reveals intriguing stories and secrets about Hui’s own family. Her father was a baby when left with relatives and his parents immigrated to Canada. By age 10, his school days ended and he cared for pigs. Later, realities force him to work as a low-end cook. As a young man, he immigrates to Canada and reunites with his parents, but the wounds of abandonment never quite heal. That’s all I will say. The details beg to be read.

Hui fully succeeds in showing Chop Suey Cuisine is quintessentially Canadian.

Chop Suey Nation is well worth adding to your summer reading list. The fortune cookie bonus is its availability in Richmond Public Library’s digital collection and there’s no waiting list for this one!

Monday, 25 May 2020

The Giver of Stars


The Giver of Stars
by Jojo Moyes

The Giver of Stars, Jojo Moyes newest novel takes us on a historical journey into the backwoods of Kentucky in the 1930’s. In this period, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt had begun a horseback librarian program that would give access to library materials and increase literacy among the remote inhabitants of the Appalachian Mountains. Often it was the women of Kentucky who stepped in to ride the horses and deliver the materials to the mountains, in all weather and across all terrain.


Our story takes place in Baileyville, Kentucky and follows the challenges of the courageous women who volunteer to take up the pack horse library work. Margery O’Hare heads the motley crew. She has lived in the mountains her whole life, knowing the routes like the back of her hand. She is an independent woman for the time, refusing marriage to her long time love, and shucking the societal rules women were to abide by in the 1930’s. She further goes against the grain when she hires Sophia, a woman of colour, to help organize the library itself. This presents its own challenges in a time when segregation was still rampant.

Also quick to volunteer is Alice Wright, newly married, freshly arrived in Baileyville from England. She is an outsider in the town with her strange accent and domineering father-in-law and jumps at the chance to escape her house and explore the mountains with the library program. 


Two younger girls, Izzy and Beth make up the ensemble, and bring their own reasons for joining in. Each of the women is looking for something new and exciting, and the packhorse librarian troupe does not disappoint. 


Naturally, the library is welcomed by some and frowned upon by others. However, the little town did not count on the strength of the women undertaking to bring books to those without. They bravely fight against racism, poverty, danger, and nature to carry out their duty heroically with kindness and compassion. Based on historical facts of the pack horse program and the struggles of the 1930’s Kentucky mountains, this is an enduring tale of friendship and camaraderie that takes this small but dedicated group of women far beyond what they thought they were capable of.From the author of Me Before You, set in Depression-era America, a breathtaking story of five extraordinary women and their remarkable journey through the mountains of Kentucky and beyond.

Alice Wright marries handsome American Bennett Van Cleve hoping to escape her stifling life in England. But small-town Kentucky quickly proves equally claustrophobic, especially living alongside her overbearing father-in-law. So when a call goes out for a team of women to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s new traveling library, Alice signs on enthusiastically.

The leader, and soon Alice’s greatest ally, is Margery, a smart-talking, self-sufficient woman who’s never asked a man’s permission for anything. They will be joined by three other singular women who become known as the Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky.

What happens to them–and to the men they love–becomes an unforgettable drama of loyalty, justice, humanity and passion. These heroic women refuse to be cowed by men or by convention. And though they face all kinds of dangers in a landscape that is at times breathtakingly beautiful, at others brutal, they’re committed to their job: bringing books to people who have never had any, arming them with facts that will change their lives.

Based on a true story rooted in America’s past, The Giver of Stars is unparalleled in its scope and epic in its storytelling. Funny, heartbreaking, enthralling, it is destined to become a modern classic–a richly rewarding novel of women’s friendship, of true love, and of what happens when we reach beyond our grasp for the great beyond.
From the author of Me Before You, set in Depression-era America, a breathtaking story of five extraordinary women and their remarkable journey through the mountains of Kentucky and beyond.

Alice Wright marries handsome American Bennett Van Cleve hoping to escape her stifling life in England. But small-town Kentucky quickly proves equally claustrophobic, especially living alongside her overbearing father-in-law. So when a call goes out for a team of women to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s new traveling library, Alice signs on enthusiastically.

The leader, and soon Alice’s greatest ally, is Margery, a smart-talking, self-sufficient woman who’s never asked a man’s permission for anything. They will be joined by three other singular women who become known as the Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky.

What happens to them–and to the men they love–becomes an unforgettable drama of loyalty, justice, humanity and passion. These heroic women refuse to be cowed by men or by convention. And though they face all kinds of dangers in a landscape that is at times breathtakingly beautiful, at others brutal, they’re committed to their job: bringing books to people who have never had any, arming them with facts that will change their lives.

Based on a true story rooted in America’s past, The Giver of Stars is unparalleled in its scope and epic in its storytelling. Funny, heartbreaking, enthralling, it is destined to become a modern classic–a richly rewarding novel of women’s friendship, of true love, and of what happens when we reach beyond our grasp for the great beyond.
From the author of Me Before You, set in Depression-era America, a breathtaking story of five extraordinary women and their remarkable journey through the mountains of Kentucky and beyond.

Alice Wright marries handsome American Bennett Van Cleve hoping to escape her stifling life in England. But small-town Kentucky quickly proves equally claustrophobic, especially living alongside her overbearing father-in-law. So when a call goes out for a team of women to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s new traveling library, Alice signs on enthusiastically.

The leader, and soon Alice’s greatest ally, is Margery, a smart-talking, self-sufficient woman who’s never asked a man’s permission for anything. They will be joined by three other singular women who become known as the Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky.

What happens to them–and to the men they love–becomes an unforgettable drama of loyalty, justice, humanity and passion. These heroic women refuse to be cowed by men or by convention. And though they face all kinds of dangers in a landscape that is at times breathtakingly beautiful, at others brutal, they’re committed to their job: bringing books to people who have never had any, arming them with facts that will change their lives.

Based on a true story rooted in America’s past, The Giver of Stars is unparalleled in its scope and epic in its storytelling. Funny, heartbreaking, enthralling, it is destined to become a modern classic–a richly rewarding novel of women’s friendship, of true love, and of what happens when we reach beyond our grasp for the great beyond.
From the author of Me Before You, set in Depression-era America, a breathtaking story of five extraordinary women and their remarkable journey through the mountains of Kentucky and beyond.

Alice Wright marries handsome American Bennett Van Cleve hoping to escape her stifling life in England. But small-town Kentucky quickly proves equally claustrophobic, especially living alongside her overbearing father-in-law. So when a call goes out for a team of women to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s new traveling library, Alice signs on enthusiastically.

The leader, and soon Alice’s greatest ally, is Margery, a smart-talking, self-sufficient woman who’s never asked a man’s permission for anything. They will be joined by three other singular women who become known as the Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky.

What happens to them–and to the men they love–becomes an unforgettable drama of loyalty, justice, humanity and passion. These heroic women refuse to be cowed by men or by convention. And though they face all kinds of dangers in a landscape that is at times breathtakingly beautiful, at others brutal, they’re committed to their job: bringing books to people who have never had any, arming them with facts that will change their lives.

Based on a true story rooted in America’s past, The Giver of Stars is unparalleled in its scope and epic in its storytelling. Funny, heartbreaking, enthralling, it is destined to become a modern classic–a richly rewarding novel of women’s friendship, of true love, and of what happens when we reach beyond our grasp for the great beyond.From the author of Me Before You, set in Depression-era America, a breathtaking story of five extraordinary women and their remarkable journey through the mountains of Kentucky and beyond.

Alice Wright marries handsome American Bennett Van Cleve hoping to escape her stifling life in England. But small-town Kentucky quickly proves equally claustrophobic, especially living alongside her overbearing father-in-law. So when a call goes out for a team of women to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s new traveling library, Alice signs on enthusiastically.

The leader, and soon Alice’s greatest ally, is Margery, a smart-talking, self-sufficient woman who’s never asked a man’s permission for anything. They will be joined by three other singular women who become known as the Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky.

What happens to them–and to the men they love–becomes an unforgettable drama of loyalty, justice, humanity and passion. These heroic women refuse to be cowed by men or by convention. And though they face all kinds of dangers in a landscape that is at times breathtakingly beautiful, at others brutal, they’re committed to their job: bringing books to people who have never had any, arming them with facts that will change their lives.

Based on a true story rooted in America’s past, The Giver of Stars is unparalleled in its scope and epic in its storytelling. Funny, heartbreaking, enthralling, it is destined to become a modern classic–a richly rewarding novel of women’s friendship, of true love, and of what happens when we reach beyond our grasp for the great beyond.

Thursday, 21 May 2020

The Family Upstairs


https://yourlibrary.bibliocommons.com/v2/search?query=family+upstairs+lisa+jewell&searchType=smartby Lisa Jewell

Flipping between past and present, this weaving mystery/thriller follows the story of a beautiful mansion in Chelsea and what happened behind closed doors. On Libby Jones’ twenty fifth birthday, she receives an inheritance from her dead parents: a multi-million dollar mansion in Chelsea. Shocked at her reversal of fortunes, she excitedly takes possession only to discover a series of unsettling mysteries surrounding her birth parents and the people they kept in their home. Twenty-four years prior, her parents had been found poisoned along with an unidentified body while Libby’s ten-month-old self lay happily cooing in a crib.  

Who was the unidentified body? Who reported the dead bodies? Who was taking care of baby Libby while her parents lay dead? As these questions begin to be answered, more questions arise! Full of unreliable narrators, misdirection, and suspense, The Family Upstairs keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole way through. As the story weaves between past and present, and between character story lines, Jewell leaves just enough of a cliff hanger that you are desperate to get back to that thread thus making for a very fast read! 

I loved how this book started with what seemed like four or five completely unrelated stories, each interesting on their own, and managed to work them together tighter and tighter until they all connected. A well crafted mystery, in my eyes, ties up all the loose ends in a satisfying way, and I feel that happened in The Family Upstairs. 

If you like this style of mystery thriller, I would recommend The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks, or anything by Liane Moriarty.