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Book Reviews
January, 2008

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Book Reviews - March
Narrow the field and choose the right books
By  Brenda Jenkins Kleager

Tune into IN reviews for the best of books about writing – all genres – from high adventure to haiku, from fact to fiction, cookbooks to commentary, and much, much more. Always check IN to see what's in. We only publish the best and our rating scale below is based upon the values of the three Es: Ease To Read, Educational, and Entertaining. If you have a how-to-write book that you would like us to read and possibly write a review about (we only publish reviews of books that we deem are best of the best) please send it to us. Our snail mail address can be found on our Contacting IN page.

Title: Roget’s Descriptive Word Finder
Author: Barbara Ann Kipfer, Ph.D.
Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books
ISBN #: 1-58297-170-6
IN Rating:

Review: Dr. Barbara Ann Kipfer has written twenty-five books about words and language. She has earned Ph.D. degrees in linguistics and archeology and is currently working on another doctorate in Buddhist studies. Her resume includes work for IBM Research, Ask Jeeves, and So it is with vast knowledge and experience that Dr. Kipfer brings us the Descriptive Word Finder.

The book is uniquely devoted to adjectives. Yes, adjectives. Thousands of adjectives! Get rid of clichés and boring descriptions in your writing. Dr. Kipfer comes to your rescue by providing fresh and accurate alternatives.

As she states in the introduction, “Writers appreciate having different modes of access to words and phrases to elaborate on the descriptions in their own works.” Her book certainly does that . . . and more.

In 572 categories arranged alphabetically, words are defined and explained. Having words arranged by categories allows the writer to compare nuances of meanings in order to select the perfect word for a specific context.

Kipfer lists seventy synonyms or descriptions for the word yellow; about the same number for the word calm; and sixteen for the word swamp.

Undoubtedly, an author will need to consult a more comprehensive dictionary from time to time. However, Descriptive Word Finder will usually suffice and serves as a reliable starting point for further word study.

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If you like this review, take a look at Our Members Library Of Recommended Reading for books that have made a significant difference in our members' writing careers.

Title: Descriptionary: A Thematic Dictionary, 3rd Edition
Author: Marc McCutcheon
Publisher: Checkmark Books
ISBN #: 0-8160-5926-8
IN Rating:

Review: How do you find the correct term in an area of expertise that you’re lacking? Answer: Discriptionary.

In this must-have reference book, words and phrases are arranged by category and subcategory. The terms are also defined in common language; not merely definitions and synonyms.

Some of the categories include Clothing (historical), Food and Drink, Furniture, Law, Medicine, Transportation, and Medicine. Under the category Environment, you will find subtopics such as caves, fog, and trees.

Need to know the monetary unit used in Croatia? Or what it’s called when they roll a horse track to make it harder and faster? Or World War II slang for the barber? Discriptionary has the answers.

Although this book may not be useful for every book you write, when needed it’s indispensable. A quick perusal of a category can help recall words and facts easily and add knowledge of the subject.

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If you like this review, take a look at Our Members Library Of Recommended Reading for books that have made a significant difference in our members' writing careers.

Title: The Million Word Crossword Dictionary
Author: Stanley Newman and Daniel Stark
Publisher: Harper Collins
ISBN #: 0-06-051757-3
IN Rating:

Review: Originally intended for crossword puzzle aficionados (and Scrabble players I suspect), The Million Word Crossword Dictionary has found its way into the hearts of writers. The massive 1,268-page work serves as a comprehensive dictionary/thesaurus; but its magic lies in its format.

Entries for each word are arranged by the number of letters in the synonym or phrase. An author (or book character) who uses a staccato style might select the shorter choices, while another who likes words possessing a lingering quality would choose the longer ones. Authors can also use the variety of words to select ones for just the right mood or to fit a character’s way of speaking. Poets will be especially pleased if looking for a word of a certain number of syllables.

In a sense, The Million Word Crossword Dictionary is a mini-almanac. There are lists of Oscar winners, Nobel Prize winners, Wimbledon champions, Popes, makes of cars, and more.

Newman and Stark share experience working with words and word puzzles. Newman has written or edited more than 100 books. Stark and his wife have authored 26 volumes of the Crosswords Challenge series.

The print is small, but readable. It’s not a volume one would normally carry around while doing errands; but as a desk reference it’s a winner.

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If you like this review, take a look at Our Members Library Of Recommended Reading for books that have made a significant difference in our members' writing careers.

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Brenda Jenkins Kleager has a master’s degree in education with an emphasis in literacy. She is currently editing Gaeth’s Way, written in response to the 50,000-word challenge for the 2006 National Novel Writing Month contest. Brenda is also working on the nonfiction piece Mystic Associations From Ancient Knowledge. Contact Brenda at: 

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Writer’s Block
The path to inspiration starts
Upon the trails we’ve known;
Each writer’s block is not a rock,
But just a stepping stone.

Poetry Is Not
Penned to the page
Waiting for us to admire.
It is only a lonely thought
Caught by tears on fire.

Silent Echoes
A quiet rhyme upon a page
Is what a poet gives;
Some gentle words whispered in trust
To see if memory lives.

Bard From Deadlines
What makes a poem finally work
Is not the time it takes;
It’s how the poet used the muse
To prophet from mistakes.

Be Mused
The art and craft of poetry
Are not so far apart;
The craft comes from the cunning,
The rest comes from the heart.

Fine Vintage
Don’t plant your poem on the page
As though you’re hanging drapes;
It’s shape and flow should come and grow
Like wild summer grapes.

Getting It Write
Writers write what they know best,
Their passions, fears, and dreams;
Writers rarely write about
What other call their “themes.”

Double Vision
A writer’s life is paradox,
It’s more than what it seems;
We write of our reality,
The one inside our dreams.

The echo of a promise,
The thunder of a sigh,
The music of a memory,
A child asking why.

Letter Perfect
Twenty six symbols arranged on a page
Can send a soul to heaven or torment it with rage,
Can free a fragile world or hold it in its net--
The power and the magic of the mighty alphabet.

The Write of Passage
The jump from writing just for fun
To getting paid for it
Begins when you first realize
You know you’ll never quit.

It is not the magic of his wings
That sets us free from our bond.
It is the muse within ourselves
That lets our words lift us beyond.

Photo Poet
Consider your mind the darkroom,
Consider your life the lens,
Consider your eye the camera
On whose focus the poem depends.

Rising Moon
A poem is a rising moon
Shining on the sea,
An afterglow of all we know,
Of all we hope to be.

Star Light
Writing a poem,
Reaching a star,
In making good art
We find who we are.

Spider Web
A poem is a spider web
Spun with words of wonder,
Woven lace held in place
By whispers made of thunder.

The final draft upon the screen,
At last my poem’s through;
A verse of only four short lines--
I rewrote twenty-two!

Read All Of Charles Ghigna's Poetry at

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