It Pays to Increase Your Word Power

Jeanne Matthews is the author of the Dinah Pelerin international mysteries published by Poisoned Pen Press. Like her amateur sleuth, Jeanne was born with a serious wanderlust. Originally from Georgia, she enjoys traveling the world and learning about other cultures and customs, which she incorporates into her novels. She currently lives in Renton, Washington with her husband who is a law professor. Where the Bones Are Buried, the fifth book in the series, is in bookstores now . You can learn more about Jeanne’s books at

Every time I visit Great Britain, I come home with an expanded vocabulary.  Reading the morning newspapers is a humbling experience.  Journalists don’t dumb down their prose or tone down their political observations.  One editorialist described the House of Lords as a “worm farm of claret-gargling, bien pensant quangocrats.”  I was pretty confident about the meaning of worm farm and claret, but had to slink off to Wiktionary to learn that a bien pensant quangocrat was a more or less orthodox member of a quasi-governmental organization.  Live and learn.

The insertion of the French phrase sounds a tad pretentious and pedantic, but the astounding thing to me was that the writer expected the average British newspaper reader to know what he meant.  On that sceptered isle, it’s not just the writers who wield a formidable vocabulary.  The British public seems to have and make use of a more diverse mix of words in their everyday speech than Americans.  Anyone who has listened to their comments and complaints about Britain’s messy exit from the European Union has to agree they have a flair for expression.

“Now is the time to stiffen the sinews and summon up the blood.”

“So mental a political tap-dance, that it makes riding a porcupine bareback over a cliff seem the sane thing to do.”

They don’t sugarcoat their book reviews either.  “A Pooterishly embarrassing piece…A fire-lighter of vanity, self-pity and logorrhoeic dullness” sniped one critic.  I had to look up both Pooterish and logorrhoeic.  Pooterish alludes to a fictional character in a comic English novel and means self-important and narrow-minded.  Logorrhoeic means a pathologically excessive and sometimes incoherent tendency to wordiness.  Using too many words to make one’s point can be annoying, but having precisely the right words at one’s disposal eliminates the need for added description and explanation.  The larger the vocabulary, the more concise the writing.

A writer’s vocabulary is her toolbox and a reader’s vocabulary is his key to reading comprehension.  A word comes into existence when it is used by one person and understood by another.  If you can’t give a name to something, you can’t think it.  The English language has between one and two million words, more than any other language, and a new word is coined every 98 minutes.  Only savants, lexicographers, and championship Scrabble players know more than 100,000 or so.  Professor David Crystal, a language researcher, suggests that a person can estimate the size of his vocabulary by taking a sample twenty pages from a basic dictionary, counting the words he knows, dividing by the number of sample pages, then multiplying by the number of pages in the dictionary.  A reasonably educated person will know approximately 75,000 words, of which only about two-thirds find their way into his normal conversation.

Nothing builds vocabulary like reading and the mystery genre is blessed with a number of clever wordsmiths.  One of my favorites is the late (but thank heavens, prolific) Reginald Hill.  In his Dialogues with the Dead, the murderer was a “paronomaniac” – defined by a forensic psychologist as “someone obsessed with language, not just on a linguistic level, but at a philosophical level, maybe even a magical level.”  If that sounds logorrhoeic, Inspector Andy Dalziel sums it up more succinctly.  “So we’re looking for a nut who likes doing riddles and crosswords.”

Kate Atkinson differentiates her characters by the words they choose to express themselves.  Here’s a quote from One Good Turn:  “Julia’s vocabulary was chock-full of strangely archaic words – ‘spiffing,’ ‘crumbs,’ ‘jeepers’ – that seemed to have originated in some prewar girls’ annual rather than in Julia’s own life.  For Jackson [Atkinson’s series detective], words were functional, they helped you get to places and explain things.  For Julia, they were freighted with inexplicable emotion.”

From 1945 to 1965, Wilfred J. Funk (of Funk & Wagnalls Dictionary fame) contributed a column to Reader’s Digest called “It Pays to Increase Your Word Power.”  It was one of the most popular features in the magazine, continued after Wilfred’s death by his son Peter.  “Whenever we learn a new word,” said Peter, “it is not just dumped into our ‘mental dictionary.’  Our brain creates neural connections between the new word and others relevant to our interests.  It develops new perceptions and concepts.”  And Americans did in fact believe that a well-stocked vocabulary paid.  It enhanced their chances for advancement in their careers.  It enhanced their ability to move hearts and change minds.  A skilled user of words might even become President of the United States.

Word power is no longer necessary to achieve high office. Today, the patois of a Pooterish fourth-grader is all it takes.  Sad.  But words still matter.  The best reason to cultivate a rich vocabulary is not to gain professional success or impress other people.  Words are, in the humble opinion of Albus Dumbledore, “our most inexhaustible source of magic.”


Book Review: The Hummingbird Dagger by Cindy Anstey


Title: The Hummingbird Dagger
Author: Cindy Anstey
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Publication Date: April 16, 2019
Genres: Historical, Mystery, Young Adult


Purchase Links:
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The Hummingbird Dagger
Cindy Anstey
Swoon Reads, April 2019
ISBN 978-1-250-17489-5

From the publisher—

From the author of Suitors and Sabotage comes a suspenseful and enthralling new Regency novel, perfect for readers who like their Jane Austen classics with a side of mystery and murder.

1833. A near-fatal carriage accident has deposited an unconscious young woman on the doorstep of Hardwick Manor and into the care of young Lord James Ellerby. But when she finally awakens, it is with no memory of who she is or where she came from.

Beth, as she calls herself, has no identity; the only clue to her circumstances is a recurring nightmare of a hummingbird, blood dripping from its steel beak.

With the help of James and his sister, Caroline, Beth tries to solve the mystery of her own identity and the appalling events that brought her to their door. But nothing could prepare her for the escalating dangers that threaten her and the Ellerby clan. From the hazardous cliffs of Dorset to the hostile streets of London, Beth will fight to reclaim her past, hunted by a secretive foe with murderous intentions.

Years ago, when I was a mere whippersnapper 😉 , I was really into the Regency era and read voraciously, both fiction and nonfiction. While the Regency Period historically lasted only from 1811 to 1820, the accepted definition of Regency Period literature is broader, generally from just after the French Revolution to about 1830 or so, just before the Victorian era. As time went on, I drifted away from the period and, as often happens with readers, my tastes changed and my interest moved on to other times.

Then, not long ago, I began to read a bit again in the period and Cindy Anstey was one of the authors who pulled me back in. This time, the setting is just a little beyond the Regency era but it’s close enough to not matter and I continue to regain my appreciation of the time, thanks at least in part to The Hummingbird Dagger. Ms. Anstey has created a nice blend of mystery, dark happenings and romance with a dash of mayhem, making this a fun book to read, although I do think the plotting left something to be desired.

What should be (based on the particulars) a crafty and intriguing mystery dragged somewhat and it took too long to begin unraveling things and, while I liked the characters, I didn’t think their behavior rang true to the period. Still, I wanted to know what had happened to Beth (did real people of the time use nicknames such as “Beth”?) and how the Ellerbys and Beth would figure things out. As the clues began to add up and a murder occurred, I became more invested in Beth’s past and what might still be endangering her and those around her.

The characters need more chemistry and the plot could use less—MUCH less—talking and more action but, all in all, this was a pleasant read and I’ll check out more of Ms. Anstey’s books.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2019.

About the Author

Whenever she is not sitting at the computer, throwing a ball in the backyard, gardening or reading, Cindy can be found–actually, not found–adventuring around the world with her hubby.

She has lived on three continents, had a monkey in her yard and a scorpion under her sink, dwelt among castles and canals, enjoyed the jazz of Beale St and attempted to speak French.

Cindy loves history, mystery and… a chocolate Labrador called Chester.

Author links:
Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads


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Book Review: Tarnished Remains by Paty Jager


Title: Tarnished Remains
Series: Shandra Higheagle Mysteries, Book 2
Author: Paty Jager
Narrator: Ann M. Thompson
Publication Date: April 14, 2017


Tarnished Remains
Shandra Higheagle Mysteries, Book 2
Paty Jager
Narrated by Ann M. Thompson
Patricia Jager, April 2017
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—


Shandra Higheagle is digging up clay for her renowned pottery when she scoops up a boot attached to a skeleton. She calls in Weippe County detective Ryan Greer. The body is decades old and discovered to be Shandra’s employee’s old flame.

Ryan immediately pegs Shandra’s employee for the murderer, but Shandra knows in her heart that the woman everyone calls Crazy Lil couldn’t have killed anyone, let alone a man she loved.

Digging up the woman’s past takes them down a road of greed, miscommunication, and deceit. Will they be able to prove Crazy Lil innocent before the true murderer strikes again?

When Shandra digs up the boot with a bone in it, the discovery naturally leads to an entire body and its identity doesn’t take too long. What’s surprising is Lil’s response to the news and her attitude is what leads the county’s detective, Ryan, to suspect that she may have killed the man for very personal and emotional reasons. That’s when Shandra feels the need to step in because she just doesn’t believe that her ranch hand is either guilty or crazy.

Fortunately for all three, Ryan doesn’t mind—although he has a few qualms—Shandra inserting herself into the investigation. He knows from a previous experience that Shandra is unusually intuitive and thoughtful and, in fact, he respects the dreams she receives through her deceased Nez Perce grandmother. It also doesn’t hurt that Ryan and Shandra are engaging in a bit of a romantic connection.

As pieces of the truth behind the cowboy’s death come to light, the attention points in an entirely different direction that has a lot to do with very dysfunctional family issues as well as Lil’s love for the late lamented Johnny. Along the way, light is shed on the reasons behind Lil being called “Crazy Lil”.

Ann M. Thompson does a fine job with the narration, using distinctive voices for various characters, and her tone is appropriately nuanced to emphasize stress and emotion. Occasionally, I heard a little hiccup, for lack of a better word, in the narration but certainly not enough to bother me much.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2019.

Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes // Amazon


About the Author

Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 35 novels, 8 novellas, and numerous anthologies of murder mystery and western romance. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Her Shandra Higheagle mystery series has been a runner-up in the RONE Award Mystery category, and a finalist in the Daphne du Maurier. This is what Mysteries Etc says about her Shandra Higheagle mystery series: “Mystery, romance, small town, and Native American heritage combine to make a compelling read.”

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads // Pinterest


About the Narrator

Audiobook narrator and voice over artist Ann Thompson continues to work in radio and TV news broadcasting as she has done for the past 25 years. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists. A-P has named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology. Once she even rode the “Vomit Comet” to simulate zero gravity in a KC-135. Thompson has reported from India, Japan, South Korea, Germany and Belgium as part of fellowships from the East-West Center and RIAS. She values author partnerships like the one with Paty Jager for the Shandra Higheagle series.



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Book Review: The Sinners by Ace Atkins

The Sinners
A Quinn Colson Novel #8
Ace Atkins
Putnam, July 2018
ISBN: 978-0-399-57674-4

Quinn Colson finally is going to tie the knot, but events tend to interfere with the planning, much less the ceremony itself.  It’s a good thing Maggie Powers, his betrothed, is an understanding woman.  As sheriff of Tibbehah County, Mississippi, Colson is hoping for some quiet, but an invasion of a couple of gangsters, a drug war and assorted underworld internecine strife tends to interfere.

Moreover, Quinn’s best man, Boom Kimbrough, gets a job driving trucks for a shady outfit that traffics in drugs and women.  When a couple of wannabes, the Pritchard brothers, who grow the best weed, want to branch out and hijack Boom’s semi, the gangsters blame Boom as a conspirator and almost kill him, giving Quinn additional incentive to take action.

The latest in this long-running series, the novel is written in the inimitable style Ace Atkins has developed to portray the south inhabited by the characters he writes about.  The series consists of excellent crime novels, filled with colorful characters.  Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, September 2018.

Cover Reveal: Cold Falling White by Gabrielle Prendergast

Today Gabrielle Prendergast and Rockstar Book Tours are revealing
the cover for COLD FALLING WHITE, the sequel to her Sci-Fi Book
ZERO REPEAT FOREVER which releases November 19, 2019!
Check out the awesome cover and enter the giveaway!
On to the reveal! 
About The Book:
Title: COLD FALLING WHITE (The Nahx Invasions #2)
Author: G.S. Prendergast
Pub. Date: November 19, 2019
Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Formats: Hardcover, eBook, audiobook
Pages: 352
Find it: GoodreadsAmazonKindle,
The 5th Wave meets Beauty and the Beast in this
fast-paced and heart-stopping follow-up to Zero Repeat Forever,
which VOYA called “an edge-of-your-seat page-turner.”

Xander Liu survived the end of the world—just barely. For more than
a year he has outsmarted, hidden from, and otherwise avoided the
ruthless alien invaders, the Nahx, dodging the deadly darts that have
claimed so many of his friends. When the murder of his friend Raven
leaves him in the protective company ofAugust, a rebellious
Nahx soldier, Xander is finally able to make his way back
to human controlled territory and relative safety.

But safety amongst the humans is not what
it seems. Nothing is anymore.

Raven remembers dying in the arms of August. She remembers
the pain, and the way he cried as she faded away. But months
later when she wakes up on a wide expanse of snowy sand dunes,
shackled to a boy she thought was dead too, she has a lot of
questions. What has happened to her and the other reanimated
humans gathered on the dunes? What is the meaning of the
Nahx ships that hover ominously above them? And most
pressing of all, where is August, who promised to keep her safe?

In the shadow of an unforgiving Canadian winter, Xander and
Raven find themselves on opposite sides of an alien war neither
of them signed up for. Left with little choice about their roles
in the great battle that now seems inevitable, they search for
answers and allies, all while feeling inexorably drawn back
the place it seems their respective fates were determined, and
to the one who determined them: August.
Title: ZERO REPEAT FOREVER (The Nahx Invasions #1)
Author: G.S. Prendergast
Pub. Date: August 29, 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, audiobook
Pages: 496
Find it: GoodreadsAmazonKindle,
The 5th Wave meets Beauty and the Beast in this
fast-paced and heart-stopping novel about an
invasion of murderous creatures and one girl
fighting for her life at the end of the world.
He has no voice, or name, only a rank, Eighth. He doesn’t know the
details of the mission, only the directives that hum in his mind.

Dart the humans. Leave them where they fall.

His job is to protect his Offside. Let her do the shooting.

Until a human kills her…

Sixteen year-old Raven is at summer camp when the terrifying
armored Nahx invade, annihilating entire cities, taking control of
the Earth. Isolated in the wilderness, Raven and her friends have
only a fragment of instruction from the human resistance.

Shelter in place.

Which seems like good advice at first. Stay put. Await rescue. Raven
doesn’t like feeling helpless but what choice does she have?

Then a Nahx kills her boyfriend.

Thrown together in a violent, unfamiliar world, Eighth and
Raven should feel only hate and fear. But when Raven is
injured, and Eighth deserts his unit, their survival comes
to depend on trusting each other… 
About Gabrielle:

Gabrielle is a writer, teacher and designer living in Vancouver, Canada. You can read about her books
here. She is represented by Barbara
Poelle at the 
Irene Goodman Literary Agency. In 2014 she was the Writer in Residence at Vancouver Public Library. In 2015 she was
nominated for the BC Book Prizes and chosen to tour the province to promote BC Books. In 2017 Gabrielle took part in the TD Canada Children’s Book Week Tour. She has also been nominated for the
White Pine Award and the CLA Award.
Gabrielle won the Westchester Award for Audacious. Audacious was included in CBC’s list of 100 YA Books That Make You Proud
to be Canadian.
A poem from Capricious was chosen for the 2014 Poetry in Transit Program. Pandas on the East Side was chosen as an Ontario Library Association Best Bet for Junior Fiction in 2016. It was also nominated/shortlisted for the Chocolate Lily Award, The Red Cedar Award, the Diamond Willow Award and the Myrca Award.
Giveaway Details:
1 winner will receive a signed Zero Repeat Forever
hardcover, USA and Canada Only.

Book Review: It’s Not Destiny by Kelsey Abrams

It’s Not Destiny: An Abby Story
Second Chance Ranch
Kelsey Abrams
Jolly Fish Press, January 2018
ISBN 978-1-63163-145-0
Trade Paperback

Abby Ramirez does not like change, she craves consistency. So, she’s been struggling in her fifth-grade class. For the first time since first grade, she is not accompanied by her service dog. Amigo is transitioning from a working canine to a playful pet as Abby searches for his replacement.

She is the little girl that knows a whole lot about dogs. Being in charge of them at Second Chance Ranch comes naturally. Not just raising and training, but she is also the best match-maker any canine and human could hope to encounter.

When a disappointed owner brings in a gorgeous German shepherd that proved to be a poor guard-dog, it does not take Abby long to understand the importance of placing Destiny with the proper human. This pup has been through tough times, she will need an owner who understands that.

It isn’t often that a story centers around an autistic character, especially when autism spectrum disorder does not particularly pertain to the plot. And Abby absolutely does not allow it to define her. Rather, it is a part of who she is and we see that, not just while she is with Amigo, but even more clearly when she reaches for him, even in his absence.

I am amazed by how many layers this tiny tome contained, while managing to be a quick, compelling read. I even learned the history of the Iditarod.

Reviewed by jv poore, August 2018.

Spotlight on the Playing With Fire Anthology Boxed Set



It doesn’t matter who you think you are… falling in love with
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Ashlee Nicole Bye

Toni Cox

Carissa Andrews

Kathrin Hutson

Kat Stiles

Majanka Verstraete

Kat Parrish

Karen M. Bryson

Monique Singleton


Purchasing Links:

Universal link:

Please note that Amazon will only be available in August as they have a three-month pre-order period. If you want to do another swap with us for that time please fill in the form below.


With every pre-order there is a free bundle reads with a colouring
book. The bundle has more than 1600 pages and is available in
PDF, MOBI, and Epub. Once you’ve purchased your copy then
go to this link to claim your free bundle read.