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1. Blessing and cursing part 2: curse

Curse is a much more complicated concept than blessing, because there are numerous ways to wish someone bad luck. Oral tradition (“folklore”) has retained countless examples of imprecations. Someone might want a neighbor’s cow to stop giving milk or another neighbor’s wife to become barren.

The post Blessing and cursing part 2: curse appeared first on OUPblog.

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2. MATT CHATS: Tim Daniel on Designing Comics and Constructing Stories

BURNING_FIELDS_1I’ve enjoyed Tim Daniel’s design work since he started working on books with current Captain America writer Nick Spencer at the Image Comics imprint Shadowline. I was even lucky enough to have him design a logo for a series I wrote once upon a time. Ahead of my upcoming, extensive piece about the state of design in […]

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3. Review of Conjure, by Lea Nolan



Conjure
by Lea Nolan
Published by Entangled Publishing
Find on Amazon
Book description: 
Be careful what you search for…
Emma Guthrie expects this summer to be like any other in the South Carolina Lowcountry–hot and steamy with plenty of beach time alongside her best friend and secret crush, Cooper Beaumont, and Emma’s ever-present twin brother, Jack. But then a mysterious eighteenth-century message in a bottle surfaces, revealing a hidden pirate bounty. Lured by the adventure, the trio discovers the treasure and unwittingly unleashes an ancient Gullah curse that attacks Jack with the wicked flesh-eating Creep and promises to steal Cooper’s soul on his approaching sixteenth birthday.
When a strange girl appears, bent on revenge; demon dogs become a threat; and Jack turns into a walking skeleton; Emma has no choice but to learn hoodoo magic to undo the hex, all before summer—and her friends–are lost forever.
My thoughts:
Conjure is one of the most entertaining young adult novels I’ve read in a long time. It is a light, fun, and sometimes spooky read filled with sympathetic characters, intriguing hoodoo magic, and turns and twists that will keep you turning pages until the very satisfying ending–one that is open and hints at what will happen in book 2. That said, the novel pretty much stands on its own and only one problem is left unsolved.
Fifteen-year old Emma is an utterly likable character, strong, brave, sensitive, and forever loyal to her beloved twin brother, for whom she will go to he ends of the world for in order to save him from the terrible curse that threatens to destroy him.  Her brother Jack is just as likable but very different from her; he’s quirky and quick-witted and at times impossible and selfish just like brothers usually are. The romance subplot between Emma and Jack’s best friend, Cooper, is sweet and refreshing and adds spice to the main story–not that it needs any extra spice. Plenty of dialogue make the pace move quickly and there’s lots of interesting information about hoodoo.
I usually dislike the use of flashbacks in a story but Nolan did a good job with them. I also enjoyed the Southern setting descriptions quite a lot; they certainly bring to life the South Carolina Lowcountry with its steamy, white-sand beaches and lush vegetation. Adult intrusion is kept to a bare minimum, so the story is centered around Emma, Jack, Cooper, the old hoodoo ‘witch’ who helps them and the mysterious beauty who has suddenly, out of nowhere, appeared in their lives and who has Jack mesmerized.
There are lots of exciting scenes in Conjure, especially when the teens are forced to bend the rules and cross the line for the higher good. Though there’s magic, witchcraft and curses involved, this isn’t a horror story and the tone is kept light throughout. There’s no bad language or sexy scenes either; Nolan keeps everything pretty sweet and proper. I certainly look forward to reading more from this talented YA author.

1 Comments on Review of Conjure, by Lea Nolan, last added: 10/16/2012
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4. Do you ‘cuss’ your stars when you go ‘bust’?

By Anatoly Liberman


Here, for a change, I will present two words (cuss and bust) whose origin is known quite well, but their development will allow us to delve into the many and profound mysteries of r. Both Dickens and Thackeray knew (that is, allowed their characters to use) the verb cuss, and no one had has ever had any doubts that cuss means “curse.” Bust is an Americanism, now probably understood everywhere in the English-speaking world. The change of curse and burst to cuss and bust seems trivial only at first sight.

The sound designated in spelling by the letter r differs widely from language to language. Even British r is unlike American r, while German, French, and Scots r have nothing in common with Engl. r and one another. All kinds of changes occur in vowels and consonants adjacent to r. Those who know Swedish or Norwegian are aware of the peculiar pronunciation of the groups spelled rt, rd, rn, and rs. In some Germanic languages, postvocalic r tends to disappear altogether. In British English, it seems to have merged with preceding vowels some time later than the beginning of the seventeenth century, because most dialects of American English have preserved postvocalic r; in their speech, father and farther, pause (paws) and pours are not homophones.

In principle, nothing of any interest happened to Engl. r before s. But when we comb through the entire vocabulary, we occasionally run into puzzling exceptions. Thus, a common word for the waterfall is foss, an alteration of force. This force, unrelated to force “strength, might” (of French descent), is a borrowing from Scandinavian. Old Norse had fors, but in Old Scandinavian the spelling foss already turned up in the Middle Ages, and this is why I mentioned the treatment of rs (among other r-groups) in Swedish and Norwegian. Today in both of them rs sounds like a kind of sh to the ear of an English-speaker. Therefore, one could have expected Engl. fosh rather than foss. Forsch did occur in Middle Low (= northern) German, but the extant English form is only foss.

A similar case is the fish name bass. (I am very happy to return to the fish bowl.) All its cognates have r in the middle: Dutch baars, German Barsch, and so forth. The word is allied to bristle. Apparently, r was lost before s in Old Engl. bærs (æ had the value of a in Modern Engl. ban) but not without a trace, for the previous vowel was lengthened and developed into a diphthong, as in bane and its likes. In the name of the game prisoner’s base (a kind of tag with two teams, as probably everybody knows), base may go back to bars. If so, bass, the bristly fish, and base, the game in which participants find themselves behind “bars,” had a similar history. But the fish name is spelled bass instead of base, and this is one of the strangest spellings even in English (imagine lass and mass pronounced as lace and mace).

A bust of a ruler whose empire went bust.

To be sure, we have another bass “low voice,” also pronounced as base, but at least there is an explanation of that oddity. Italian basso was (quite correctly) identified with base “of low quality” and pronounced like that adjective, with the written image of the noun remaining intact. But why bass, the fish name? I could not find any discussion of this minor problem and will venture a conjecture. We have seen that in fors r was lost, and yet the preceding vowel did not undergo lengthening. Perhaps, once bærs shed r, it existed in two forms, with a short vowel (as happened in foss, from fors) and with a long one. The outcome of the compromise was to pronounce the word according to one form and to spell it according to the other. That is why English spelling is such fun. (Compare heifer: the written image reflects its development in the dialects in which the diphthong has been preserved, but the Standard form sounds heffer.)

Another fish name is dace, from Old French dars. Among the fifteenth-century English spellings we find darce and darse. It may not be due to chance that the loss of r before s occurs in words belonging, among others, to fishermen’s vocabulary and children’s lingo. Analogous cases are known from hunters’ usage. The phonetic change in question looks like a feature of unbuttoned and professional speech, for who would control the sounds of the “lower orders” and of the hunters’ jargon? The Standard treated it as vulgar. But fighting the street is a lost cause, though language does not develop from point A to B, C, and all the way to Z. It rather resembles an erratic pendulum; the norm of today may be rejected tomorrow, so that the conservative variant may prevail.

This is what happened in the history of the word first. In the pronunciation of many eighteenth-century speakers (in England), first was indistinguishable from fust- in fustian. Fust for first is not uncommon in today’s American English, but it is “substandard.” Also in the eighteenth century, nurse, purse, and thirsty occurred even in the language of the educated as nus, pus, and thustee. Shakespeare once has goss for “gorse,” and the idiom as rough as a goss has been recorded in the modern Warwickshire dialect. The devil is always worsted, but the fabric worsted is “wusted.” The place name Worstead is only for the locals to pronounce correctly. Those who are not afraid to be lost in this jungle may compare Worcester (UK), Worchester in Georgia and Massachusetts, and Wooster, Ohio. Rejoice that you are not reading a 1721 ad: “Thust things fust.”

This is then what happened to cuss and bust. Cuss, from curse, never left the low (base?) register, though everybody understands cussed and cussedness without a dictionary. Bust fared better (or worse, depending on the point of view). First (fust), its descent from burst isn’t always clear to the uninitiated, so that it became a word in its own right, rather than a shadow cast by burst. Second, although mildly slangy in the phrase go bust, it won a decisive victory in its derivative buster. (Do many people still remember that Theodore Roosevelt was called Trust Buster?) The word’s popularity was reinforced by Buster Brown, the character and the shoes. The “street” scored an important point — so much so that blockbuster is no longer slang. It may perhaps be called colloquial, but it has no synonym of equal value. A blockbuster is a blockbuster.

Perhaps someone is interested in the origin of bust, as in sculpture or in the ads for those women who suspect that their bust is inferior to that of Mrs. Merdle of Little Dorrit fame. It is a borrowing of Italian busto, a word, I am happy to report, of highly debatable etymology.

Anatoly Liberman is the author of Word Origins…And How We Know Them as well as An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology: An Introduction. His column on word origins, The Oxford Etymologist, appears here, each Wednesday. Send your etymology question to him care of blog@oup.com; he’ll do his best to avoid responding with “origin unknown.”

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Image credit: 17th century marble bust, from Florence, Italy, of Vespasian, (9-79), first roman emperor of the flavian dynasty, on display at Château de Vaux le Vicomte, France. Photo by Jebulon, 2010. Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

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5. Nissitissit Witch by Rosemary Chaulk


Reviews of Nissitissit Witch

A book you can't put down, one minute you are sitting on the edge of your seat then you fall off, rest and before you know it, you are still reading and its the next day. The characters are so real, and the eerie feeling . . . is so real. --Barbara

The mystery, history and the story of Sarah, which comes to life, you can actually see it play out before your eyes and (it) leaves you craving . . .more. –Cheryl Pillsbury



http://rosemarychaulk.blogspot.com/

Joining us today is author Rosemary Chaulk. Her debut novel, Nissitissit Witch was recently released from AuthorHouse. We’ll talk to Rosemary about the book, the history behind it, and current social tie-ins.

Welcome to The Book Connection, Rosemary. It’s great to have you with us!

Let’s get started by finding out a bit more about you. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Littleton, Mass which used to be a small farm town. We moved there from Waltham when I was in the third grade. At that time there was more cows than people.

When did you decide to become a writer?
I used to write when I was a teenager, later after college I was married with a family and had no free time or even the desire to write.
Three years ago I began to write again. Now I seem to be totally obsessed with writing.

And who is your greatest source of inspiration?
My greatest source of inspiration was my mother. Her life in some ways was a mess. She was a manic depressant alcoholic but never gave up and always got back up and tried again. When life knocks me down and I wonder if it is worth getting back I look to her example of never giving up no matter how dark it gets.

Tell us a little about Nissitissit Witch. Where did you find the inspiration for this story?
I was born under the sign of the bull, forever connected to the earth. I have spent my entire life working outside year round doing land survey. I have a deep respect and love for the land and at times in my career I was sickened and even despondent about the massive pollution that I saw. In the early seventies I worked in a survey crew doing topographic surveys along the banks of the Merrimack River in Lowell, Mass. The branches of the trees, which hung in the river, were covered with toilet papers and condoms; tampons swam by like perverted sperm on their way to the ocean to infect the source of life. I have carried these images my whole life.

In the town I live in was a village, North Village, and people to this day believe the village was cursed by a witch and died. A cursed piece of land right in the town I live in. But then I thought, “Can land be cursed or is it just the tortured souls who roam it who are cursed?

In this book I found a way to express my love for the land and make people aware of just how much we polluted North America once we took it from the Indians

When the settlers took the valley from the Indians they killed a tribe that had lived there for six thousand years. The settlers lust for the land was strong, it proved to be ironic that their lack of respect for this land was the very thing which killed them

Tell us about your main characters.
I based my fictional characters on actual newspaper articles. In doing the research I noticed that there were many mentions of people dying in an unusual way. Reading some of the research I found North Village to have a cobbler who made his own felt, in researching felt I found it to be made using mercurous oxide. The cobbler traveled the farms in the area selling his boots. There was also a velvet shop and in researching velvet I found that it has to be steamed and not ironed. Further research showed that all of the royal colors back then contained poisons and sometimes heavy metals, even the wallpaper back then was toxic and many infants died in their cribs. It is even rumored that Napolian’s insanity was caused by his love of green wallpaper, which was the most toxic. When I researched heavy metal poisoning research showed that people died raving lunatics, certainly that would be an unusual way.

Why will readers relate to them?
The story is very contemporary in the fact that we are still polluting our word, we still have bigotry and small mindedness and people are given derogatory labeled because we do not understand them.

What will they like about them?
My characters come alive and the reader will enjoy being with my characters as much as I enjoyed being with them when I wrote the book.

Is there anything they will dislike?
Everyone has detested the Norwegian and several people urged me to take him out of the book but he was a real character in the village.

The 1800’s was a time of great growth for America. The West was settled; railroad towns popped up across the land as the U.S. Government sought to connect the east and west coasts; and inventions like gas lighting, the telegraph, and the grain elevator made life better and easier for people living in the 19th century. How did progress affect the characters of your novel?
The industrial was one of the causes of the death of North Village. None of the small mill villages in this area survived the industrial revolution. All the large businesses moved to the large cities abandoning waterpower for steam.

Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman was a popular CBS TV show in the 1990’s. Set in the mid-1800’s it might have been the first show to showcase the mistreatment of the Indians and the crimes against the land that took place in favor of progress. Have you ever seen the show?
Yes I used to watch the show all the time.

And if so, do you feel there are parallels between Dr. Quinn and Nissitissit Witch?
Dr Quinn had trouble being accepted as a doctor because she was a woman. My main character is very intelligent like Dr. Quinn but she is a Quaker in a town that was Puritan in a backwoods village. Worse than Dr. Quinn my main character is persecuted and murdered because she is different.

Are there contemporary themes or struggles running through your novel?
When the settlers took the valley from the Indians they killed a tribe that had lived there for six thousand years. The settler’s lust for the land was strong; it proved to be ironic that their lack of respect for this land was the very thing, which killed them. This type of blind lust still exits today


Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?
Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about you and Nissitissit Witch?
The book and more information on the book is available at my website
http://www.rosemarychaulk.com/

I have two videos on youtube
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPNHobuS_yE

And http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGSTiqs7gGQ

What is up next for you?
I am working on a science fiction story J1TIs there anything else you would like to add?
The book is entertaining and educational and is a must read if you love the environment.

Thanks for joining us today, Rosemary. I wish you great success!

10 Comments on Nissitissit Witch by Rosemary Chaulk, last added: 11/21/2008
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