Book mail highlight: Oxford Illustrated Dictionary of 19th Century Language

I bought myself a wee giftie this week:

Oxford Illustrated Dictionary of 19th Century Language
(published 2018)

After seeing this book mentioned somewhere (on a blog post? I’m thinking maybe via Gail Carriger?), I had to get myself a copy! For readers who delight in 19th century fictional realms, this book promises to be a must-keep-close-by sort of reference book.

Besides an A-to-Z dictionary format, there are also multi-page layouts on hot topics such as “Rich and Poor”, “Childhood”, “At Home”, and so much more. It’s all laid out in an easy-to-use alphabetical format, with eye-catching fonts and illustrations.

Oh, I am absolutely going to have a blast with this one!

And hey, you never know when you’ll need to know the definitions of poltroon, clodpole, oleograph, or diablerie.


Anyone else out there loving the glory of Poldark on PBS?

I mean, how can you resist?


I haven’t seen the two-hour season finale yet (airing this coming Sunday), but as for the rest of the season so far, I’m loving it.

Ross PoldarkTo back up a bit, Poldark is adapted from a series of books by the late author Winston Graham (which were also made into a PBS series in the mid-1970s). Book 1, Ross Poldark, was published in 1945, and the author went on to write a total of twelve book in the Poldark saga. The books are historical fiction set in Cornwall, with the first book opening in 1783 as Captain Ross Poldark returns to his family home after fighting in the American Revolutionary War — on the losing side.

Ross finds much changed upon his return: His home is tumbling down and in terrible shape, his family’s copper mines are failing, the workers are starving, and his beloved Elizabeth has become engaged to marry his cousin Frances, who belongs to the wealthier part of the Poldark family. Ross deals with disappointment and hurt by throwing himself into the restoration of his estate and his mine, and eventually falls for the lower class girl he rescued from abuse and brought into his home as a servant.

DemelzaDemelza is a breath of fresh air, not hung up on manners, full of impetuous good spirits, laughter, and a good heart. With Demelza’s love, Ross begins to find happiness finally, and the two make an unconventional couple who incite the gossip of the upper class throughout the area.

After watching the first episode of the TV series, I just knew I had to read the books. The 8-hour first season covers the content of books 1 (Ross Poldark) and 2 (Demelza), and I ended up reading both. Normally, I dislike reading books after seeing the TV or movie versions of a story, but in this case, it only added to my enjoyment. I found that I enjoyed the TV episodes best without knowing what was going to happen, but knowing what would happen didn’t at all detract from my enjoyment of the books.

The TV show is very faithful to the major plotlines of the books, with only slight changes here and there to heighten the on-screen drama. (For example, a character’s mine in the books fails due to a crumbling economy, whereas on TV, the character loses the mine in a card game.) Likewise, the show plays up the love triangle aspect of the plot more than the book does, although to be honest, it’s really not as big a factor as the early promos might have led us to believe.

The books were simply terrific! Even reading them after viewing the events on TV, the level of detail and beautiful writing in the books adds to what I already knew, so I was never bored or feeling like I was going over familiar ground. The writing is lovely, and the descriptions of landscapes, interior scenes, even clothing and candlelight, are so masterfully worded that there’s a sharply visual element to the words on the page. (See my Thursday Quotables post from last week, here, for an example of what I mean.)

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The TV production is stunning to look at (and no, I don’t just mean the curls blowing in the breeze or the sultry, brooding stare). The sea and the fields, the hills, the farms — they’re all gorgeous. Of course, there are some episodes that feature about three too many scenes of Ross dramatically dashing off on his horse as the waves crash beside him… but that’s easy to forgive. It’s not all eye candy. The plot is engrossing, and the supporting characters are, by turn, sadly valiant (cousin Verity), tragically doomed (poacher Jim), and buffoonishly weak (ugh, cousin Frances). And don’t get me started on Jud and Prudie, Ross’s household servants who spend most of their time drinking, fighting, or drinking and fighting.

While there are moments of light and joy, and swoonishly romantic love scenes, the tone seems to get darker and darker as the season draws to a close. As I said, I haven’t seen the finale yet, but I have finished reading Demelza… and boy, it’s a doozy. No spoilers from me, but if the show is anywhere near as tragic, I’ll be a big soppy, weepy mess by the end.

My understanding is that Poldark has been a big success for Masterpiece, so I think we can feel confident that it’ll return for season 2 next year. Meanwhile, I already have copies of the next two books… and while I really should read other things for a while, I’m super tempted to dive right into book #3 (Jeremy Poldark — and no, I have no idea who Jeremy Poldark is), if for no other reason than to find out (I hope!) that there’s some sunshine heading back into the story.

Sigh. Are you watching? Have you read the books? What do you think?

And yeah, I know I said it wasn’t all eye candy, but — seriously! How can they show this on TV and expect people not to paste it all over the internet?

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Greetings from Hogsmeade!

Earlier this month, I spent a wonderful week in Florida with my two kids. The highlight for us was – absolutely – enjoying the amazing Harry Potter attractions at Universal in Orlando. I thought y’all would appreciate seeing the photo highlights of our visit to Hogsmeade, Hogwarts, and Diagon Alley!

My wand. Yes, I have a wand. It chose me.

My wand. Yes, I have a wand. It chose me.


Being in Harry Potter heaven was sheer joy for the three of us… here’s a little taste:

(Click on any of the images to view as a slideshow)


99% of what I blog about is books… so consider this post a part of the minority 1%. 🙂

I just spent the most wonderful week traveling in Alaska with my beautiful, funny, lovely daughter. Mommy-daughter quality time! We happen to make great traveling partners, and it was all just so enjoyable and relaxing and fun.

We’ve been to Alaska before: She spent a year in Juneau with Americorps, and I’ve been on two short visits previously, once on a cruise and the second time a different road trip with my daughter.

Alaska 114This time around, we had a week to spend, and we determined to do a few things we’d missed on previous trips. We started in Anchorage, then headed about two hours north to the quirky and adorable town of Talkeetna, known as the possible inspiration for the TV show Northern Exposure. Also know as the town with a cat for a mayor. (It’s true! Even Wikipedia says so.)

While in Talkeetna, we stayed in cozy, rustic lodge by the Susitna River, where we could see Mt. McKinley on a clear day.

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On our second day there, we boarded a 10-seater plane for a 90-minute flight over Denali National Park — and we even landed on a glacier!

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The peak on the right is Mt. McKinley!

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And here I am, just chillin’ on Ruth Glacier.

Talkeetna itself is a super awesome town, where we ate world-class berry pancakes, over-indulged buying amazing locally made jewelry at a great gallery, and just wandered the streets for a while, admiring the random moose art:

That's my girl!

That’s my girl!

Next, we headed back south toward the Kenai Peninsula, enjoying the great drive along Turnagain Arm with a stop at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, where we met these guys (from the other side of the fences, naturally):

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This little guy! I can’t even.

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We did some hiking along the way, heading off on a trail through the woods that included amazing views in all directions. Stuff like this, for example:


We wrapped things up with a few days in Homer, staying in a weird and wonderful round cabin on a bluff overlooking the water:

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We ate, we shopped, we hiked, we sat and read (of course), and we took a water taxi…

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… across Kachemak Bay to hike through the woods to see this:

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Grewingk Glacier – gorgeous!

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Alaska is beautiful, and there’s just so much to see! I can’t wait to go again!

A parting shot — taken at the Anchorage airport at 11:30 pm, saying good-bye to my daughter as we headed our separate ways for now. Yes, it’s 11:30 and the sun is just setting!

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Good-bye, Alaska! I’ll miss you! Especially moments like this:

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North to the Future! (Or, where I’ll be for the next week…)

You won’t be seeing much of me for the next week — and that’s a good thing!

I leave tomorrow on a one-week vacation with my daughter… and if I can just get through one last work day without any more crises falling on my head, I’ll be good to go!

Where am I going? Here’s a hint:

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Need another? How about…

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Or this one?

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Give up yet? Does this help?

alaska-stampYup, I’m heading north to beautiful Alaska! My daughter and I are meeting in Anchorage and then hitting the road! Which means this trip should be fabulous in two ways — a week with my awesome daughter and spending time in one of my very, very favorite places.

I haven’t packed yet. I know I need hiking boots, warm socks, lots of layers, and plenty of t-shirts. The pair of jeans I frantically ordered last week never arrived, and I think I need some travel-sized shampoo bottles, so I may need to make one final Target run on the way home today. Mustn’t forget my armloads of electronics — phone, Kindle, laptop, GPS — and all of their assorted chargers.

Most importantly, my reading material! Normally, when I go on trips, I love to throw a bunch of paperbacks into my suitcase — books that I’ve had for a while, books that I’ve been meaning to get to, books that are already a bit battered so it won’t matter if they get smooshed or damp or left behind for someone else once I’m done. Since this is just a one-week trip, so I don’t need to be overly ambitious with my reading plans, but so far I’m planning to finish the book I just started (which is SO GOOD so far!):

Dead Lands

And then, I can’t wait to read:

All I Love and Know

And if I still need more to read (there’s a lot of flying time involved… ), my next choices will probably be one of these:

Bear Fall of Marigolds invention of wings

In terms of blogging, I’ll be mostly offline — or at least, that’s what I’m thinking right now. I’ll be skipping most of my regular weekly posts, and any upcoming reviews will have to wait until I’m back.

Don’t worry, Thursday Quotables will happen as usual! I’ve already scheduled a Thursday Quotables post for next week, so come join in and link up!

Meanwhile, here’s wishing everyone a terrific week filled with good times and great reading. See you soon!

In the immortal words of the former governor of my great state…


PS – Pretty photos up top taken by moi on my last trip to Alaska in 2013!

Let’s leverage our core competencies!

Whatever happened to speaking concisely and saying what you mean?

Oh, wait, I know: Business-speak happened.

I’ve been in one too many meetings lately where a speaker gets so bogged down in biz-speak jargon that it’s practically impossible to understand the point.

Granted, this isn’t a book-related post — but as a reader, I’m pretty sensitive to the use and abuse of language, and I’ve just about reached my limit when it comes to listening to people mangle the English language.

Here are a few gems that a certain coworker has been using again and again and AGAIN. (These are practically verbal tics. It’s like he uses a phrase, and enjoys it so much that he uses it twelve more times. Sometimes during the same conversation.)

  • Moving the needle — as in, “we’re trying to move the needle on customer engagement”. How about just saying “improve”?
  • Clearing the decks — um, do you mean finish what we’re working on?
  • Thought partners — no idea on this one.
  • Thinking outside the envelope — mixed metaphors much?
  • Many questions that I want to seed — okay, that sounds a bit gross.
  • We have a playbook of options — ugh, sports metaphors in the workplace.
  • Low hanging fruit — used four times in a one-hour meeting!
  • Where there’s smoke, there’s fire — used twice in the same meeting.
  • Pinch points — I can’t even.

There are also buzzwords — nothing wrong with them in and of themselves — but used constantly, they’ve become practically meaningless. Like…

  • collegial
  • collaborative
  • world view

And then there are the words that are perfectly fine, except when they’re misused or overused, such as:

  • Mitigate — Apparently, every problem ever faced needs to be mitigated.
  • Craft — Nothing is ever written or created. “Can you craft a memo?” “I’m crafting a message about the project.” How very crafty it all sounds.
  • Disperse — as in “we serve a very disperse clientele”. Um, I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

On the plus side, at least we’ve finally gotten certain folks to stop saying the oh-so-redundant “new innovations”!

I could go on… but I think you get the point.

Do you run across jargon abusers in your daily life? Have you heard anything lately that really drives you insane?

Please share… let’s commiserate!

Or better yet… let’s engage in a collaborative process to craft a thoughtweb! Argh.