30 December 2008

Book Banter -- Die Trying

Title: Die Trying (Jack Reacher, bk. 2)
Author: Lee Child
Length: ~400 pages
Genre: Mystery/thriller
Plot Basics: Drifter Jack Reacher is again in the wrong place at the wrong time. Trying to be a gentlemen and help an injured woman with her dry cleaning, when they are both kidnapped off a Chicago in broad daylight. Reacher and the woman are taken to a militia camp in Montana and Reacher decides that he will escape with the woman, no matter what it takes.
Banter Points: Reacher is such an interesting character, because of his drifter nature. He, of course, manages to drift into trouble all the time. Like a lot of detective/noir/hard-boiled characters, he's got that set of standards he lives by and that governs his actions.
Bummer Points: Maybe Word Nerd's crazy, but she remembers the first Reacher book being in first person and was surprised when this one was in third. Is she remembering wrong?
Word Nerd Recommendation: Like hardboiled crime stories, like Spenser or Mickey Spillane? IF so, read the Reacher series.

23 December 2008

Best of 2008 -- Top Ten Books

Here's the moment you've all been waiting for -- Word Nerd's Top Ten Books of 2008.

Without further adieu... the envelope please:

10. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Mark Haddon

9. The Painter of Battles, Arturo Perez-Reverte

8. Threshold, Caitlin R. Kiernan

7. Good People, Marcus Sakey

6. The Learners, Chip Kidd

5. Pinkerton's Secret, Eric Lerner

4. Windy City, Scott Simon

3. The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz

2. The Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England, Brock Clarke

1. Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen

Of these titles, four of the top ten are titles that Word Nerd read for book club (thanks to the Biblio Babes for making her read "real" books.) Arturo Perez-Reverte and Marcus Sakey are both making second appearances in the top ten list. Perez-Reverte was at #8 in 2006 for his second Capt. Alatriste book, "The Purity of Blood." Sakey was on the 2007 list at #2 for his debut novel, "The Blade Itself."

Much like last year, if Word Nerd compiled this list on a different day, the top three books may have fallen in a different order, as all three were wonderful. Word Nerd picked Water for Elephants as number one, just because it's been the one she's recommending to other readers the most since the story is more universal.

If there was a #11 on a top ten list, the spot would go to Stephenie Meyer's Twilight, solely because this pop culture phenom is a good read that's compelling and hard to put down.

Congratulations to this year's top ten books. Who's on your yearly top ten?

22 December 2008

Best of 2008 -- Discovered Author

Welcome back to Word Nerd's end of the year book awards.

Moving on to the next category -- Best Discovered Author. This category honors an author that Word Nerd stumbled on to in 2008. There are plenty of people she read for the first time in tomorrow's top ten list, but this is a different category. These are authors (and books) who while not quite making that top ten cut, were refreshing, enjoyable and people she'll look for in the future.

This year's winner is a bit of a dark horse pick and a big surprise to Word Nerd after looking at her whole reading list for the year.

The Best Discovered Author of 2008 is:

Marcus Sedgwick

Sedgwick writes YA horror. Word Nerd stumbled on to him when she saw the title of one of his books, "My Swordhand is Singing" and thought just that's just too great of a title. She read the book and discovered he was a darn good writer too. Since then, she's also read his "The Book of Dead Days" and "The Dark Flight Down" which are both excellent books.

The runner up for this category is Jennifer Donnelly and her historical fiction series ("The Tea Rose" and "The Winter Rose"). Word Nerd doesn't read much historical fiction, but she couldn't put either of these books down, swept up in the family drama in the stories and decided that was worth a partial nod this year.

19 December 2008

Best of 2008 -- First Book in a Series

Word Nerd has reached the point in the year again where she bequeaths her "Best ofs" on books she's read this year.

Just to clarify on the awards, they aren't for books released this year (although some are), but rather what Word Nerd deems the best of what she's read this year, regardless of publication date.

Today's award is "Best First Book in a Series." Monday, she'll reveal "Best Discovered Author" and Tuesday will be the coveted "Word Nerd Top Ten Books in 2008."

This year, Word Nerd had some trouble with this category, because it was tending to overlap with "Best Discovered Author" but after some reflection she's declared a winner.

And the winner is...

Big City, Bad Blood by Sean Chercover.

This first book in Chercover's series about Ray Dudgeon takes home the prize because the book was so darn readable and unputdownable. There was a fairly graphic torture scene, but there's also a great scene where Ray drives a car into a swimming pool and that helps balance things out.

This year's runner up for Best First Book in a Series is City of Pearl, by Karen Traviss. The reason it didn't win is that the series starts slow. Things pick up by the end of the book, but it takes a while to get going.

What book would you bestow this award on this year?

16 December 2008

On the TBR pile

Word Nerd is very happy to report that next up on he TBR pile is "Die Trying" the second Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child.

Earlier this year, Word Nerd was the 20-somethingst person to have this book on hold and the library system had but one copy. After doing the math and asking them to the buy more copies so Word Nerd could read it before March of 2010, a hold copy is now waiting for her at her local library branch.

And there are a bunch more ordered copies for other branches. She wonders a bit if there will then a be a glut of readers with book three on hold. But for now, she'll take it.

12 December 2008

Book Banter -- Crossing the Line

Title: Crossing the Line (Wess'har Wars, bk. 2)
Author: Karen Traviss
Length: 373 pages
Genre: sci-fi
Plot Basics: Environmental Hazard Agent Shan Frankland is stuck on the planet CS2 forever because she was infected with a strange alien that makes it very hard for her to die. This virus is sought after by her government, pharmaceutical companies and others and Shan is committed to protecting it -- and the planet CS2 -- at all costs. Only some of her former allies are determined to take it from Shan by whatever means necessary.
Banter Points: Word Nerd enjoyed the first book in this series and really liked this one. The action that Traviss started in the first book was on a roll in this one -- with characters already established and a plot that was already in progress and didn't need set up. Word Nerd is especially fond of the character Eddie Michallat and his predicament as the only journalist in deep space and getting stuck between reporting and making news.
Bummer Points: Word Nerd can't say much with out spoiling everything, but she was shocked (shocked!) at the ending and is moving the next book in the series up her reading list.
Word Nerd Recommendation: If you want good space opera, stick through the first book and then watch the story get good in this second volume.

11 December 2008

Book Banter -- Trigger City

Title: Trigger City
Author: Sean Chercover
Length: 293 pages
Genre: mystery/thriller
Plot Basics: Chicago PI Ray Dudgeon has returned to active detective work after taking some time off to heal from his run-in with the Outfit. He accepts a case from a grieving father who wants the truth of his daughter's death -- even though the police work on the case appears to be quite open-and-shut. As Ray investigates, he has to come face to face with some events from his past and runs into trouble (of the trying to kill him variety) as he discovers the case isn't at all what it initially seemed.
Banter Points: Chercover followed up his first novel, "Big City, Bad Blood" with a fantastic second novel. What happened to Ray Dudgeon in the first book plays a role with how he reacts to the situations in the second book. Dudgeon is a character that's changing... but it's unclear at this point if he's really changing for the good (which just makes Word Nerd want to read more about him.)

Dudgeon reminds Word Nerd somewhat of both Robert Parker's Spenser and Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden, in that like Spenser, Dudgeon can be quite ruthless and like Harry Dresden, Dudgeon has a deep-seated personal code of ethics and morals and justice and protecting women in particular that gets him in over his head on cases. These two things provide great internal tension for the character that Chercover brings out well in the book as Ray struggles with knowing his should walk away from the case, yet finding himself compelled by his code to stay.

Additionally, the book is infused with real-world politics and news to give it a sense of immediacy.

Bummer Points: Word Nerd hopes that for Chercover, the fact that the book is riddled with all kinds of current politics doesn't make it have a shorter shelf-life. Obviously, plenty of books in history have been sustained despite the political overtones to them (Wizard of Oz, anyone?), so maybe this isn't a very big issue after all.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Fans of hard-boiled mysteries, if you haven't been introduced to Sean Chercover's PI, why are you waiting?

09 December 2008

Book Banter -- White Night

Title: White Night (Dresden Files, bk. 9)
Author: Jim Butcher
Length: ~390 pages
Genre: urban fantasy
Plot Basics: Harry Dresden, Chicago's wizard for hire, is seen in the company of several young women right before they turn up dead. Only Harry knows it's not him that's snatching these women. Trying to serve on the side of right and justice, Harry decides he'll get to the bottom of things, even though that means going up against the White Court Vampires.
Banter Points: There's something about wizards named Harry.... When Harry Potter books were new to Word Nerd, she was just captivated by them. Now that she's turned her attention to the Dresden Files, a new grown-up Harry wizard has her attention. He is, as Word Nerd has pointed out before, a battered hero who has to grow and change with the circumstances of each book.
Bummer Points: This book, in the grand scheme of the series, was a transition book. Butcher seriously raised the stakes in book 8, and this one seemed to do a lot to help that transition... keeping old and new characters around and fresh in readers' minds, while only advancing the big plot a little bit.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Still a great series to read... check it out!

08 December 2008

A public health PSA

Word Nerd doesn't usually vary much from her topics of books and writing, but for once, she thinks it's exceptionally important.

That trip to Chicago she was supposed to make didn't happen because she got the flu (as in influenza, not the stomach bug that people call the flu).

Here's the PSA part -- if you haven't gotten a flu shot, go get one. Trust Word Nerd... any temporary discomfort from the vaccine is way better than being laid flat by this virus for 5-6 days. Days 1 and 2, Word Nerd couldn't do much but stay in bed -- fever, body aches, chills, pounding, pounding headache. Days 3 and 4, Word Nerd was feeling better, but not much. Fever was down, aches were gone, except for the headache. Day 5 -- first full day fever-free, but wiped out.

You don't get the flu from the flu shot.

Do yourself and the people you care about a favor... get the shot so you don't get this illness.

01 December 2008

Chicago Fiction

Word Nerd's headed up to the Windy City tomorrow for three days of training to learn how to supervise new AmeriCorps*VISTA members joining the team at her real work.

The trainings are an all day affair, but once it's evening, she'll won't have much to do but sit around her airport hotel room. To stave off the boredom, she's packing books. (What else?)

In honor of her visit to Chi-town, Word Nerd's reading things set in that city. Up first, Jim Butcher's 9th book of the Dresden Files, "White Night." Granted, these books are more heavy on the magic than the Chicago, but it's still set there.

After that, she's got Sean Chercover's "Trigger City." Word Nerd is not making the same mistake that she did the last time she bought one of Sean's books and then waited forever before reading it. No, this one she's going to get to right away.

Word Nerd's got her book picks set for this trip, but anybody else have a favorite title that's set in Chicago?

25 November 2008

It's Done

Check the meters on the side.

While the word count fluctuator code won't show that the project's finished, it's done. It's really, really done.

24 November 2008

One

Word Nerd's got one section of the book left to edit tonight.

One section. Less than 10 pages, really.

Then she'll be done with the work-in-progress. After this, it'll be sent out to some trusted readers. And likely she'll stop talking about it as much on this blog. Here's why -- after some feedback from readers, Word Nerd;s plan is to send it out to agents. She doesn't think that whole process should be public.

So... thanks for reading during this writing/revising process.

Word Nerd will still be writing even while waiting for beta readers and/or agent feedback, so keep reading.

19 November 2008

Editing Progress

So this is it. Word Nerd is to her last week of editing the novel before turning it over to a group of dedicated readers to get some feedback.

Word Nerd's NaNoEdMo has been a great success. Starting Monday, she's got seven solid days of editing in a row to finish. Barring no emergencies, next Tuesday, she should be able to post that she's done.

Yes, done.

This is the second novel Word Nerd's written, but the first one never got close to this stage of done-ness. Word Nerd's sure she'll get some comments back from readers, but nothing that would unravel the plot.

She thinks there will have to be some sort of celebration for this kind of done-ness. What exactly, she doesn't know. Maybe some chocolate cake in honor of the old Chocolate Cake Club.

Any thoughts on an appropriate celebration?

14 November 2008

Book Banter -- Sitting Practice

Title: Sitting Practice
Author: Caroline Adderson
Length: 329 pages
Genre: Literary fiction
Plot Basics: Ross and Iliana are newly-weds when a car accident changes their lives. Iliana is paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair. Somewhat strangers before the wedding, Ross and Iliana now have to relearn who each other is in the confines of her disability.
Banter Points: The plot was an interesting premise.
Bummer Points: Word Nerd really didn't like this book. There aren't many that she just dislikes flat out, but this one definitely is one. This book was the pick for her book club and she's hoping December's title is better. The problem Word Nerd saw with the story was that Ross and Iliana were only 2D character before the accident, so trying to make them into 3D characters after the accident didn't work. Word Nerd never really felt bad for them and the life they lost before the accident. Moreover, the thing Adderson dwelt on so much was the lack of physical intimacy between them and Word Nerd would suppose that while that would be a big deal between newly weds, there would be a whole lot more to have to adjust to in a relationship that only that. The relationship in the story between Ross and his sister Bonnie was more compelling that the relationship between Ross and Iliana.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Skip it unless you read only literary fiction.

11 November 2008

Book Banter -- Proven Guilty

Title: Proven Guilty (Dresden Files bk. 8)
Author: Jim Butcher
Length: ~370 pages
Genre: urban/paranormal fantasy
Plot Basics: Chicago's resident wizard, Harry Dresden, has managed to tick off the White Council and their Wardens and start the war between the Council and the Red Court vampires. Now, drafted as a Warden, Harry's coming to terms with the magical justice system that doesn't leave much room for redemption. When a horror movie convention starts getting plagued by real attacks, Harry sets off to figure out why, and discovers that the person behind the attacks may be at the mercy of the Council's not-very-lenient justice system.
Banter Points: Word Nerd loves Harry Dresden. She's been having such a great time reading through Butcher's backlist that she's a little disappointed to be almost caught up. Harry's such a great hero, so exceptionally flawed that it's impossible not to love him. The other thing Word Nerd really loves about this series is how nothing Butcher does as a writer is accidental. The stuff that Harry did back in book four has ramifications now in book 8 and beyond.
Bummer Points: Dresden and Murphy. If you've read the series, you understand.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Stop thinking about reading this series. Just go do it.

06 November 2008

The Writing Wall

Just over a month ago now, Word Nerd moved into a new apartment.

The highlight of the new place is this: It used to be an elementary school and when they did the renovations, they left five large blackboard panels in the living room. Word Nerd could not believe it -- it's like a dream for a writer who was trying to keep notes to herself on sticky-notes attached to her wall.

Two of the boards near Word Nerd's desk are her writing boards. A part of a third board has been taken over for her weekly editing schedule.

Here's a glimpse of what it looks like:





Here's a close-up of the best advice Word Nerd's got written on her board. A few weeks ago, she saw writers Marcus Sakey and Sean Chercover at a local appearance here. Marcus said he taped this phrase to his monitor. Word Nerd's shamelessly ripped it off because it is so liberating.


04 November 2008

Editing

Word Nerd kicked off another week of editing last night, after taking off a three day weekend for a Halloween shindig for her work on Friday and having her mom (Hi Mom!) in town for the weekend.

Last night, she plowed through initial changes to chapters 30-33. Tonight, the real work begins as she picks apart ch. 30-31 and makes the big fixes. This two-step editing process seems to be working. First Word Nerd inputs the mostly cosmetic changes to the chapter that she noticed when she read the whole book through sometime much earlier this year. Punctuation and missing words fixed, then she prints out a clean copy of the chapters and edits for content, consistency, pacing, etc. The second set of fixes is where all the work really happens.

On the first fix pages for these chapters, Word Nerd had huge sections where she didn't change anything, which she hopes is sort of a good sign... not a good sign for having polished prose, necessarily, but a good sign that when she hit this section of the book on the first read through, she forgot about editing and got sucked into story.

Watch for editing meter changes soon.

31 October 2008

October 2008 Bibliometer

It's the last day of the month, but since Word Nerd's got 300 pages left in Dresden Files book she's currently reading it's safe to post the bibliometer.

October 2008 readings:
6 books
1873 pages
60.4 pages/day

YTD:
83 books
27,687 total pages

30 October 2008

Book Banter -- Killing Floor

Title: Killing Floor
Author: Lee Child
Length: 407 pages
Genre: Mystery/thriller
Plot Basics: Drifter Jack Reacher has been in the town of Margrave, Georgia for only a short time when he's arrested for a brutal murder. A murder he knows he didn't commit. Jack has to spend a night in the nearby prison where he and another man caught up in the series of events are almost killed. When the victim of the murder is identified, Jack takes the killing personally and vows to figure out what exactly is going on Margrave.
Banter Points: Word Nerd had heard a lot of good things about the Jack Reacher books -- one comment in particular being that despite the violence in the book, women readers tend to really enjoy them. Wandering around her local library, she spotted Killing Floor on the shelf and decided to try it. Turns out, all the hype was worth it. And she gets it, why women readers like Jack, because while he's violent, there's a certain nobility about it.
Bummer Points: Child writes in a lot of sentence fragments. Sort of like this. All the time. Gets annoying. Somewhat. The other bummer is the the local library here only has one copy of "Die Trying," the second Reacher book. Twenty-three people have the book on hold before Word Nerd. If they all keep the book checked out for the full three weeks, it'll be spring 2010 before it comes to be her turn.
Word Nerd Recommendation: If you like mysteries and haven't read Reacher, you should. Also, anybody have a copy of "Die Trying" that Word Nerd could borrow?

28 October 2008

It's not exactly NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated) begins on Saturday. For the third or fourth year in a row now, I am adamantly not participating.

Writing 50,000 words in a month sounds like complete torture and not helpful at all with where she is in this process.

I am however, adapting this literary "holiday" to suit my own devices. Word Nerd is celebrating NaNoEdMo -- National Novel Editing Month.

She finished writing the WIP sometime last winter (February, perhaps?) And now it's almost November and she's still slogging through revisions. She could rattle off excuses as to why, but none of them are really valid save for the fact that she says she doesn't like editing.

Truth is, when the editing is going well, when the book is getting better, the editing part is just fine too. So, starting the celebration early, Word Nerd's worked on the book four days in a row and has a schedule for keeping on track until she's completed the revisions on this sucker.

Word Nerd wants to throw open her NaNoEdMo celebration to anyone else who needs to revise rather than write. Anyone?

24 October 2008

Updates

So --
Word Nerd has a new, real job. For those of you following her AmeriCorps saga, her year of national service is over and now she is back among the gainfully employed.

In celebration of this fact, she bought a book last night. A hardcover book. She also got it signed, but that's a story for another day.

17 October 2008

A little bit Hollywood

Last night Word Nerd took a break from reading books and went to the opening film of the Heartland Film Festival.

The film was The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Last night's showing was the North American Premiere of the movie.

This wasn't a happy film, but wow, was it ever impressive.

Word Nerd hasn't read John Boyne's book that the movie was based on, but the film at least on its own was a brilliant piece of storytelling. Poignant and innocent and terrible all at once.

This movie apparently opens across the country in November. It won't be a good afternoon, but take your Kleenex and go see it. Word Nerd wants to talk to people about this film....

16 October 2008

Word Count Fluctuator

The goal is to see more movement on the editing meter and word count fluctuator in the next six weeks.

Word Nerd recently moved to a new apartment and threw a big fundraiser event at her real job, so there wasn't enough space left in her head to think about the book. Now, she's trying to get back on a rigorous work-on-the-book-everyday schedule. So far, she's managed three days in a row.

Her goal was to get the book edited by the end of this year... she's actually bumped up her timetable to the end of November. Since November is National Novel Writing Month, Word Nerd's going to celebrate the occasion in her own fashion as National Novel Editing Month and be done with at least this first pass on revisions.

Then... well, then it's likely time to think about querying agents.

15 October 2008

Book Banter -- Good People

Title: Good People
Author: Marcus Sakey
Length: 326 pages
Genre: Crime/thriller
Plot Basics: Chicagoans Tom and Anna Reed are weighed down by debt from their attempts to have a child through IVF. When they suddenly find almost $400,000 tucked away in their tenant's apartment after he dies, they think their money troubles are over. Only Tom and Anna aren't the only ones who think the money should belong to them and the cash puts them in the path of robbers, drug dealers and a glory-seeking cop.
Banter Points: Sakey just keeps getting better. After bursting into the world of crime fiction a few years ago with "The Blade Itself" and following that up with "At the City's Edge," his latest, "Good People," is another top-notch novel. Sakey deftly takes the premise of regular people coming into questionable money and infuses it with suspense and lyrical prose.
Bummer Points: Word Nerd's read Sakey's other two books in one sitting and was bummed she couldn't do that with this one. She had a hard time putting it down.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Go to the library/bookstore and get this book right now.

14 October 2008

Author Answers with Sean Chercover (again)

Please welcome mystery writer Sean Chercover back for a second Author Answers column here. Chercover's new book Trigger City hits shelves today.

Word Nerd: Set the stage for "Trigger City." What's it about?
Chercover: In TRIGGER CITY, a grieving father hires Chicago PI Ray Dudgeon to bring him the truth about the daughter he never really knew. The woman had been murdered by a mentally-ill coworker, in a clear murder-suicide. But Ray learns that the dead woman had been leading a double life and he soon finds himself square in the sights of one of the world's most powerful military contracting companies. It's the kind of case that you walk away from, fast. But to walk away would be to abandon a young widow and her daughter; two innocent witnesses whose lives are now in danger.

WN: Was it harder or easier to write the second novel? Why?
Chercover: It was both. Easier, because the second book is a sequel to the first, so I already knew my protagonist and many of the supporting characters; I wasn't starting from scratch. But also harder, because of the pressures that come with expectations. Writing the first book, I didn't even know if it was going to be published, so there was no real pressure at all. But writing the second, there was a contract with a publisher ... and I'd gotten a lot of positive feedback on the first, so I felt a good deal of pressure and the critical voices in my head were even louder than usual.

WN: When you first created Ray Dudgeon, were you expecting to write a series or not? What went through your mind as you moved him into a second story?
Chercover: Can't say I was expecting a series, but I definitely had a series in mind from the beginning. Moving into Trigger City was a bit surprising, because I found that Ray had been changed by the events of the first book. I always wanted to write a series where the protagonist grows and changes, rather than a series with a static character having different adventures without being changed by his experiences. So the fact of his change didn't surprise me, but the depth of that change did. He really went through hell in Big City Bad Blood, and I found that those experiences had a lasting impact on him.

WN: "Big City Bad Blood" has been nominated for several awards. What's your reaction to that?
Chercover: I am, as they say, totally gob-smacked. It's hard to believe, and sometimes I wonder when I'm going to wake up and realize I was just dreaming all this. But I'm thrilled that the book has resonated with people, and I'm very grateful.

WN: Last time you were on the Word Nerd blog, you said your favorite word is "egregious." What's your least favorite word?
Chercover: Postmodern. And I try to never use it in conversation.

WN: What have you been reading lately that other readers shouldn't miss?
Chercover: I just got an advance copy of Ken Bruen's upcoming, ONCE WERE COPS. It rocks, and shouldn't be missed. Same with Anthony Neil Smith's YELLOW MEDICINE, which is out now.

Bonus for Indy-area readers: Chercover with be at the Mystery Company in Carmel at 7 p.m. on Oct. 23 with fellow crime writer Marcus Sakey.

06 October 2008

Book Banter -- Pinkerton's Secret

Title: Pinkerton's Secret
Author: Eric Lerner
Length: 317 pages
Genre: historical fiction
Plot Basics: Allan Pinkerton formed the first detective agency in the United States in the 1850s. The fictional memoir is the account of his work, and his terrible secret, hiring of the first woman detective and the relationship that develops between the two of them.
Banter Points: This book was great to read. It was Word Nerd's book club pick for October and she was a bit skeptical at first of how this title got chose. Once she started it however, it was hard to put down. Sweeping in historical scale, the "facts" didn't disrupt or overpower the flow of the narrative. Pinkerton was a wonderful character -- judgmental and critical and yet deeply passionate about the things he truly cared about (almost Dr. House like in that regard).
Bummer Points: Word Nerd doesn't really remember much of the Civil War history that would have been pounded into her head in high school so there were some things Pinkerton referred to that were a little lost on her.
Word Nerd Recommendation: A definite two-thumbs up. Civil War buffs and fans of detective novels alike need to read it.

03 October 2008

September 2008 Bibliometer

Another month done, another time for statistics.
September didn't see quite as many books because Word Nerd moved her life to a new apartment and was busy packing, etc. for the latter half of the month.

Still here's the Bibliometer readings:
7 book s
1,949 pages
67 pages/day average

YTD:
77 books
25,814 pages
Avg. book length: 335 pages

01 October 2008

Book Banter -- City of Pearl

Title: City of Pearl
Author: Karen Traviss
Length: 392 pages
Genre: sci-fi
Plot Basics: Environmental police Superintendent Shan Frankland agrees to go on a long-term mission to Cavanagh's Star, where a human colony was founded years before. She's given secret orders that will only be triggered in her memory once she finds something on the colony. But what Shan and her team of scientists and marines find when they land is an alien race, zealously committed to keeping Cavanagh's Star free from more human influence.
Banter Points: Word Nerd was in the mood to start a new sweeping series, something in the space opera family. While not quite space opera, Traviss' debut novel was an enjoyable read. More fiction and less science made for smooth reading (not a technical sci-fi novel). The plot picks up in the second half of the book
Bummer Points: Every so often, the plot jumped ahead in time without much in the way of transition. Also, some of the minor scientist characters were very 2D.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Peter Hamilton it's not, but that may actually make Traviss' work more accessible.

22 September 2008

Book Banter Double Edition -- Yendi and Teckla

Welcome to a special double edition of Book Banter because Word Nerd is behind...

Titles: Yendi and Teckla (Vlad Taltos bk. 2 & 3)
Author: Steven Brust
Length: ~170 pages/each
Genre: Fantasy
Plot Basics: Smart-talking assassin Vlad Taltos is back in two very different stories. In Yendi, more of his past is uncovered as he became a small-time crime lord in the Jhereg organization. As he tries to take over more territory, he stumbles on to a huge set-up that puts his life in danger. In Teckla, the Vlad's story fast-forwards again to after Jhereg (bk. 1). His wife Cawti is getting involved with a rabble-rousing bunch of Easterners and Vlad wants to stop it. As he tries to keep her safe, she rebuffs his help. Moreover, Vlad starts questioning his chosen profession and his life precariously balanced between the House of Jhereg and his fellow, oppressed Easterners.
Banter Points: Of the two books, Yendi is a more fun read. There's more adventure and more excitment. That said, putting Teckla right after it is good planning because it juxtaposes Vlad's early relationship with Cawti with where they are later.
Bummer Points: There's too much politics and not enough action in Teckla.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Even though Teckla is a bit slow, it fits with the series overall which is a must-read for fantasy fans.

18 September 2008

Book Banter -- Jhereg

Title: Jhereg (Vlad Taltos, bk. 1)
Author: Steven Brust
Length: ~170 pages
Genre: fantasy
Plot Basics: Vlad Taltos is a human assassin, small-time crime lord and Baronet in the House of Jhereg (the house of thieves, criminals and assassins) in the city of Adrilankha. He's hired by one of the high-ranking members of the Jhereg organization to kill another lord who's walked off with most of the money in the Jhereg treasury. Taking the job means Vlad himself becomes a target and it will take all of his cunning, cleverness, contacts and quips from his familiar, Loiosh, to successfully complete his job.
Banter Points: This is Word Nerd's second trip through this series and she's really glad she went back to the beginning to refresh her memory (Brust just came out with book 11? in the series...) Vlad is a great character set in a well thought out world. Brust also does a good job with letting his readers into the world, having Vlad reflect on history where appropriate. Some things, so far, he just doesn't bother explaining. Moreover, he dumps the reader right into the middle of Vlad's life and hints at all sorts of things that have happened in his past, hooking the reader into wanting to know more about this character.
Bummer Points: None about the book itself... Word Nerd's just bummed she had to request this title through Inter Library Loan to be able to reread it.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Jim Butcher fans who like Harry Dresden's attitude toward the world would get along well with Vlad Taltos.

14 September 2008

Book Banter -- Kushiel's Mercy

Title: Kushiel's Mercy
Author: Jacqueline Carey
Length: 643 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Plot Basics: (SPOILER ALERT)

Imriel and Sidonie, the Dauphine of Terre d'Ange, are no longer trying to hide their love for each other, despite the turmoil that it's creating in the kingdom. Queen Ysandre won't force the couple apart, but neither will she consent to their marriage unless Imriel returns his mother, the crafty and traitorous Melisanda Shahrizai, to Terre d'Ange to face her execution. Imri agrees to the quest, but before he can leave, a new and powerful enemy moves against the whole kingdom. Imri is the only one who can set the world back to right and reclaim Sidonie.
Banter Points: Word Nerd has spent a long time with this world, reading all 6 of Carey's books so far. This one definitely was one of the better ones. Though Carey suddenly inserted more magic into the book than has been present in her world before, it worked and it really heightened the stakes for Imriel to be going up against sorcery.
Bummer Points: It's sort of sad, for now, to leave this world and these characters behind. Carey is writing another trilogy set in this world, but Word Nerd really liked the Imriel character and is sort of disappointed that he won't be a major character anymore.
Word Nerd Recommendation: This series really is a must for fantasy fans.

10 September 2008

Mulder's got competition from the "Fringe"

Word Nerd, from time to time, watches TV. And was she glad she turned on her set for the premiere of J.J. Abrams' new show "Fringe" last night.

Part "X-Files," part "Twilight Zone," this has got to be the coolest new science/investigation/science-fiction show to hit in the past few years. Word Nerd was completely hooked from the beginning of the show -- and the opening scenes of something going horribly wrong on an trans-Atlantic flight.

This show has all the makings to be wonderfully weird and people with captivating characters. Agent Olivia Dunham is neither Scully or Mulder. The Bishops -- crazy scientist dad Walter and son Peter, an equal genius -- have a great dynamic between them. Agent Broyles is like Rod Serling and the Cigarette Smoking Man.

What makes this show is that for all the introductory plot in last night's premiere, there was an equal level of character development. Who are these people and what motivates them to work in fringe science?

Word Nerd will definitely be watching future episodes.

Anybody else catch this show? Thoughts?

09 September 2008

High Point

Two things have happened recently.
1. Word Nerd's been reading Jacqueline Carey's "Kushiel's Mercy" and has decided once again that this is one of the series that she wants her books to be like when they grow up.
2. Word Nerd's been editing chapters 20-22 of her book, which are smack dab in the middle of the book.

And this is what she learned from these two things.

Exciting things happen at the middle of books. In Carey's there were several huge chapters right at the halfway mark of the book, a sort of first plot climax for what had gone on in the first 300 pages.

In Word Nerd's chapters 20-22, exciting things happen! This was a thrilling discovery after slogging through rewrites on chapter 16 a few weeks ago. Realizing that Word Nerd's work did what Jacqueline Carey (and plenty of others did) was a huge boost, making her feel like she really does know she's doing.

It's like the writing equivalent of getting over Wednesday... the first part of the book, while exciting, is setting the stage, introducing the characters, building the foundation for the plot. Then, halfway through, there's a tipping point and everything starts racing toward the end.

Seeing this is Word Nerd's own work was a thrill and is inspiring her onward in the editing!

05 September 2008

Book Banter -- The Warlock in Spite of Himself

Title: The Warlock in Spite of Himself
Author: Christopher Stasheff
Length: 341 pages
Genre: Sci-fi/fantasy
Plot Basics: Space agent Rod Gallowglass lands on the planet Gramayre, the lost, long-ago colonized world with the goal of being like Elizabethan England. The world is in tact, but Rod discovers a group of noblemen intent on bringing down the monarchy and replacing it with anarchy. Of course, with all his space-age gadgetry, Gallowglass can do things the people on Gramayre can't and everyone begins to believe he's a warlock... a moniker he can't shake and must accept if he's to save the world.
Banter Points: Stasheff sure knows his political systems.
Bummer Points: Stasheff is overhanded with the political side of this book. Word Nerd was really hoping for a classic adventure (something along the lines of "Nine Princes in Amber") and what she got was more like a treatise on democracy with some elves, ghosts and poisoning attempts thrown in. And because the world is supposed to be stuck in a past time, the king's English used in the story is fraught with "thee's" and "thou's" making for unwieldy reading.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Some people really like this book and the subsequent serieses (Stasheff has written more than one set of follow-up books, following Gallowglass and his progeny). Word Nerd's not putting the rest of these at the top of her TBR list, for sure.

04 September 2008

Book Banter -- Hiding in the Shadows

Title: Hiding in the Shadows
Author: Kay Hooper
Length: ~350 pages
Genre: thriller/mystery
Plot Basics: Investigative reporter Dinah goes missing. Faith wakes up from a coma with no recollection of who she is, but she's having memories that she doesn't think are hers. Faith teams up with Dinah's fiance, Kane MacGregor and FBI Special Agent Noah Bishop to get to the bottom of what's going on -- and figure out if her "memories" are really a psychic ability.
Banter Points: This second book in Hooper's Bishop/Special Crimes Unit series is a better than the first. Bishop gets more rounded out as a character and the overall storyline with Faith and Kane seems tighter.
Bummer Points: While Bishop is in the whole story instead of just dropping in like he did in the first book, he's still kind of 2D because Hooper's not giving the reader much to really hang him on as a character -- though in this one, there's some mention of a big project he's working on.
Word Nerd Recommendation: If you like the genre, it's an OK read.

02 September 2008

August 2008 Bibliometer

Another month, another set of statistics:

9 books in August
3,443 pages read
avg. 111 pages/day

YTD
70 books
23,865 pages
avg. book length, 341 pages

25 August 2008

Book Banter -- The Ex-Debutante

Title: The Ex-Debutante
Author: Linda Francis Lee
Pages: 341
Genre: chick-lit
Plot Basics: Carlisle Wainwright Cushing goes home to her old moneyed life in Texas and gets sucked into her family's drama. She's representing her own mother in a messy divorce case, opposing counsel is none other than Carlisle's old flame Jack Blair, and she's been tapped to save the Willow Creek Symphony Debutante Ball. Carlisle didn't do so well at her own deb ball, and after school, ran to Boston to create a new life away from the Texas social scene. Nevertheless, Carlisle digs into all the projects and discovers you can go home again.
Banter Points: This was a very light read.
Bummer Points: This was a very light read and it had some problems along the way. Lee worked in a few flashback scenes where the transition from present day to past was so small that Word Nerd had to reread the scene to figure out what time period it was in. There were characters that had similar names (Carlisle's niece Morgan and another character was named Nellie Morgan).
Word Nerd Recommendation: Skip it. If you're hoping for something like Susan McBride's "Debutante Dropout" series, this isn't it (though Word Nerd thinks a few dead bodies could have helped this book... )

20 August 2008

Book Banter -- Big City, Bad Blood

Title: Big City, Bad Blood
Author: Sean Chercover
Length: 294 pages
Genre: mystery
Plot Basics: Chicago PI Ray Dudgeon is hired to protect a film locations manager who's now a chief witness against the Chicago Mob. As Dudgeon struggles to keep him safe, he ends up in the middle a full-blown Outfit turf-war and the stakes for both Dudgeon and his client living through the whole ordeal get higher and higher.
Banter Points: Word Nerd doesn't know why she waited so long to read this book. She met Chercover a few years ago and bought the book. And since then, it sat on her shelf while she's read tons of other books. But Word Nerd's determined to get through all the books she owns, and this was one of the ones she started with. This was a great new mystery with a complex PI character in Ray Dudgeon that readers will want to read more about in future books.
Bummer Points: There's a torture scene in this book that's a little tough to read.
Word Nerd Recommendation: If you like Robert Parker's Spenser, then Chercover's Ray Dudgeon is a guy you need to meet.

BONUS: Sean Chercover will be the Mystery Company in Carmel, IN, with fellow thriller writer Marcus Sakey on Oct. 23.

18 August 2008

Book Banter -- Water for Elephants

Title: Water for Elephants
Author: Sara Gruen
Length: ~390 pages
Genre: Literary fiction
Plot Basics: Jacob Jankowski never intended to join the circus. But after a tragic event right at the end of his education to be a veterinarian, he has few options left and ends up with the Benzini Brothers circus during the height of the Depression. There, he tries to fit in with circus life -- not quite a hired-hand, not quite a performer either -- caring for the animals and along the way, caring for the circus performers themselves.
Banter Points: This books is fabulous. Gruen weaves the historical elements in with the plot in such a way that neither is garish. Jacob is a lovable narrator and protagonist and the rest of the book is populated with the colorful characters only a book about a circus could have.
Bummer Points: Nothing comes to mind...
Word Nerd Recommendation: Two thumbs up. Read it. Watch for it on Word Nerd's best books she read this year list.

Bonus note: Unrelated to the book, this is Word Nerd's 600th post. That deserves some sort of celebration right?

14 August 2008

Stuck in the middle...

This must sound like a never-ending tale of woe, what with Word Nerd writing another post about how she's still editing the middle of her manuscript.

But she still is. And right now, it may be manuscript 0, Word Nerd 1.

Yesterday, she spent a good 90 minutes working on 5 pages. 5. That's 18 minutes a page. That seems like a lot when sometimes she can work through an entire chapter in less than 90 minutes.

This chapter -- chapter 16, to be precise -- needs the serious work. Hopefully, the time spent is making it better. Word Nerd reworked most of the beginning of the chapter and is going to go back to it tonight to finish it off and make sure the whole thing works. Last night, she got rid of one huge info dump and hopefully punched up the level of conflict throughout the scene, hinting at part of the protagonist's past that should help the reader understand her a little better.

The word count fluctuator changes slightly, but keeps hovering between 126,000-127,000 words. Right now, Word Nerd's hoping to keep the story under 130K, though if it needs more, it'll get more.

08 August 2008

Book Meme

Word Nerd found this great book meme on Worderella's blog and decided she should play along.

Hardcover or paperback, and why?
Word Nerd is usually down with both. Hardcovers are nice because they are more durable, but they are heavy to lug around. (Have you schlepped any of the later Harry Potter books through an airport?) Paperbacks are nice for travel and are somewhat easier to curl up with. Word Nerd is a equally opportunity reader...

If I were to own a book shop I would call it…
No idea on this one. Word Nerd's aspirations have never been on the book-selling end of the spectrum.

My favorite quote from a book (mention the title) is…
"I'm not dead. A dim realization but an important one, because I should have died." -- from Nick Sagan's Idlewild.

The author (alive or deceased) I would love to have lunch with would be…
C.S. Lewis. Reading Chronicles of Narnia as a kid is what inspired me to be a writer. Of course, as an adult, Word Nerd has been moved by his writing on Christianity as well.

If I was going to a deserted island and could only bring one book, except from the SAS survival guide, it would be…
Watership Down by Richard Adams. Adventure. Community. Comedy. Loss. This book's got it all.

I would love someone to invent a bookish gadget that…
Would automatically write down the quotes that really impress so there's no need to dog-ear pages or stop reading just to go find a pen.

The smell of an old book reminds me of…
The old library Word Nerd visited as a child. The building's been refurbished and doesn't smell right anymore.

If I could be the lead character in a book (mention the title), it would be…
Joanne Baldwin from Rachel Caine's Weather Warden series. She's a leading lady with a great fashion sense, a love of fast cars, a sweet supernatural power and a gorgeous guy. Of course, Word Nerd thinks it would also be a riot to be Harry Potter. Flying on brooms, doing magic, going to Hogwarts, etc. (maybe not the fighting Voldemort part...)

The most overestimated book of all times is…
Old Man and the Sea. It's 110 pages about a guy chasing a fish.

I hate it when a book…
Flips into the head of the serial killer when the rest of the book is from the POV of the detective/FBI agent/stalking victim etc. WHY put the reader in the killer's head when it would keep the suspense up more to just stay in the single POV of the main character.

If you do this book meme, post a comment with the link!

07 August 2008

Book Banter -- Dead Beat

Title: Dead Beat (Dresden Files, bk. 7)
Author: Jim Butcher
Length: 393 pages
Genre: urban fantasy/paranormal
Plot Basics: Harry Dresden must save all of Chicago from a group of necromancers who plan on sucking the life (literally) out of the city on Halloween. Harry's only back-up? His half-brother, the vampire Thomas, Butters a bumbling medical examiner with an affinity for polka, and his dog, Mouse. Oh, and possibly a fallen angel...
Banter Points: Word Nerd had been eager to get back to the Dresden Files and see what was up with Harry and this book didn't disappoint. Again (and without too many spoilers) the stakes for Harry went higher as he continues to choose to put himself in danger to save others. Butcher also expertly brings in plot threads from other books to make this an intricate plot.
Bummer Points: Maybe it was Butters and the polka thing, or the fact that Murphy was not in this story, but this was not the best of the Dresden Files. A good entry in the series, but just not the best.
Word Nerd Recommendation: If you haven't gotten the message yet, this series is a great read.

05 August 2008

Book Banter -- Breaking Dawn

Title: Breaking Dawn (Twilight Saga, bk. 4)
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Length: 754 pages
Genre: YA paranormal
Plot Basics: Bella Swan is done with high school and ready to become Mrs. Edward Cullen in a lavish wedding. And as she prepares for forever with Edward, old and new challenges rise up to threaten their chance at happiness.
Banter Points: To avoid the risk of too many spoilers, Word Nerd will say that she liked how the series wrapped up. She's certain that much like the Harry Potter finale, other fans will be wickedly disappointed, but she's satisfied with what Meyer did.
Bummer Points: Liked the ending, yes, but not thrilled. Far from thrilled, because it's apparent that Meyer only has one story to tell. "Breaking Dawn" rang similarly to the end of "The Host." Meyer seems to have one story only -- add a love triangle, some creepy bad guys, a never-before seen thing, and a chance for a happy ending and BAM! One of her books is done.
Word Nerd Recommendation: This series is worth the read, but Word Nerd's seen interviews with Meyer where she's planning to do a bunch more writing. Word Nerd will approach her new stuff with quite a bit more skepticism.

04 August 2008

July 2008 Bibliometer

July was another bumper month for reading. Here's the totals:

July 2008
10 books
3100 pages
avg. 100 pages/day

YTD
61 books
20,422 pages
average book length = 334 pages.

YTD, Word Nerd is 10 books ahead of where she was in 2007.

01 August 2008

New books...

There are few things in life that make Word Nerd wish she was 16 or 17 years old again.

As a whole, those were tough years of high school with a full slate of AP classes, college applications, high school newspaper staff, church youth group, drama practice and boys who were oblivious to the fact that she would have enjoyed doing something with them other than studying.

However, for once, the midnight release tonight of "Breaking Dawn" makes Word Nerd wish she was about a decade younger than she is.

Like gobs of other people, Word Nerd can not wait to find out what happens in this book to end the series. The cover art is so darn cool. And getting to read more about Edward Cullen... well, here's where Word Nerd needs to be younger to feel like she can be this excited about a fictional teenage character. (Or, do his years as a vampire mean he's really older?)

If Word Nerd was 17, she might contemplate going to the midnight release party. As someone older than 17, it seems... what's the word here... inappropriate? Yes, she went to the midnight Harry Potter #7 release party, but she was in the company of cape-wearing, wand-waving children. (She was only encouraging them by wearing her robes...ahem.)

Back to "Breaking Dawn," she's got the book on hold at the Indianapolis library, number 21 of as of 8:45 this morning, 261 hold requests. The library's got some 40 copies or so listed as for purchase, so she's pretty hopeful she'll get the book either tomorrow or Sunday. Not matter when she gets it, she'll probably drop whatever she's doing and read it straight through, staying up late to finish, etc.

Sigh. It could be a good weekend. Or a bad one, depending on the ending.

Also in book news today, J.K. Rowling will have another book on the shelves in time for Christmas -- The Tales of Beedle the Bard.

A bit more cynical in her old age, Word Nerd was waiting for this to happen -- all the Harry Potter ancillary volumes and spin-offs and such. That said, Beedle will likely go on her Christmas wish list.

31 July 2008

Proofreading is a necessity for everyone

A little life-lesson in why everyone needs a proofreader.

At Word Nerd's work, the summer interns found some old fortune cookies in a drawer and passed them out. The cookie was terrible but here's what Word Nerd's fortune said:

Your luck has been completely changes today.

Right. She feels like the future is really opening up with that one.

30 July 2008

Book Banter -- Madhouse

Title: Madhouse
Author: Rob Thurman
Length: ~370 pages
Genre: paranormal/urban fantasy
Plot Basics: Cal Leandros and his brother Niko are asked to investigate a strange disturbance in at the Met in New York City. In addition to finding one technophile mummy, they discover that the ashes of Sawney Beane, legendary cannibal, have reformed a living creature and that Beane is far from human. Beane and his army of revenants (think zombies, but worse) start racking up a body count in the city and Cal and Niko decide they must stop the bad guy, even without pay. And making matters worse, their friend and ally, Robin Goodfellow, is on the top of someone's hit list.
Banter Points: Word Nerd is getting really impressed by this series. What started as fairly well-done series in "Nightlife" has hit its "monster-ful" stride with "Madhouse." Thurman has an interesting thing going with her half-monster-shoot-first-ask-questions-later-gun-slinging-wise-cracking hero Cal. "Madhouse" forces Cal to deal with some of his emotions and more of his heritage while wrapping a tight plot around a nasty bad guy.
Bummer Points: March 2009. That's when the next one comes out. And "Madhouse," be warned, leaves off at a cliffhanger.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Fans of Rachel Caine, Jim Butcher and grown-up Harry Potter fans, check out the magic, mayhem and destruction in this series.

28 July 2008

Forced to edit

Word Nerd's new writers group met again on Saturday and it was great to really get into the critiquing. It's a neat bunch of people and Word Nerd's excited to be working with them.

And so Word Nerd said she would have pages ready to pass out at the Aug. 9 meeting. Which means that she needs to get pages ready to pass out at the Aug. 9 meeting.

For the last few weeks, Word Nerd has completely fallen off the revision bandwagon. Not that that is hard to do because Word Nerd doesn't like revisions. They are un-fun and require lots of thinking and evaluating and hard cuts to parts of the story that Word Nerd likes as a writer but that don't move the plot ahead.

But it's not getting done and Word Nerd's not going to make her goal of having it ready for an agent by early 2009 if she doesn't get a move on.

So the pages are going to the group.

That's the point.

22 July 2008

The best laid plans...

So, Word Nerd decided she wanted to re-read all the Stephenie Meyer Twilight books before "Breaking Dawn" comes out on Aug. 2. That book she already has a hold on at the library.

Great plan? She owns "Twilight" and has started re-reading it and also owns "New Moon" and she can get "Eclipse" from the library too, right?

Wrong.

There are currently 81 holds on "Eclipse" at the library. 81. She will not get a copy before she gets a copy of "Breaking Dawn." She's only 16th on the list for that one.

She could buy "Eclipse" but wait, Word Nerd is poor and it's not out in paperback yet like the first two she owns.

Can anybody help? Loan her a copy or something?

Sigh.

Book Banter -- Treason's River

Title: Treason's River (The Reluctant Adventures of Lt. Martin Jerrold, bk. 3).
Author: Edwin Thomas
Length: 354 pages
Genre: Historical fiction
Plot Basics: Having upset many in the British admiralty with his last caper, Lt. Martin Jerrold is sent off on an errand to America by Mr. Nevell of the Post Office. His mission is to deliver a letter to a man in Pennsylvania, learn his plans and then stop them. Easy enough sounding, but Martin is realistic about his cowardice getting in the way of any actual heroics. The only redeeming part of the trip, Martin think, may be the company of the beautiful Miss Catherine Lyell as America itself is a hostile, uninviting place.
Banter Points: This is the best of the series, both in scope of adventure and the character of Martin Jerrold. His unwilling heroics are spot-on and funny and Thomas' look at a little-known piece of British and American history is fascinating.
Bummer Points: According to Thomas' website, this is the last of the Martin Jerrold books because the publisher pulled the plug on the series. Word Nerd's glad the series ended on a high note, but is really disappointed that there are no more.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Despite the brevity of this series, it's very much fun to read. Historical fiction/adventure story fans should be sure to pick it up.

18 July 2008

Book Banter -- Feast of Fools

Title: Feast of Fools (Morganville Vampires, book 4)
Author: Rachel Caine
Length: 242 pages
Genre: YA paranormal
Plot Basics: SPOILER ALERT




Claire Danvers is trying to get over the arrival of parents in Morganville -- her own and vampire-leader Amelie's father Bishop and his scary lackeys. Her parents want her to leave Glass House and move in with them, but Claire doesn't want to leave her friends -- no matter how much danger living with Shane, Eve and the newly-vampiric Michael is. She keeps working with mad scientist vampire Myrnin, trying to find a way to cure the disease eating away at the vamps. But Bishop has other plans for the town and makes power play at special feast... that they would be fools to attend and maybe fools to miss.



Banter Points: Word Nerd loves Rachel Caine's books and this one is no exception. Caine is a master and continually raising the plot stakes throughout a series and while Word Nerd was into this book, there might have been a few unkind words muttered about how long she will have to wait for the next one and how unfair that is. What was nice about this book was seeing the character development of Michael and the Glass House mates in reaction to him. Also, the introduction of Bishop twisted the plot in interesting ways and kept the series fresh.
Bummer Points: See above and the unkind words about having to wait for awhile for "Lord of Misrule" to be released.
Word Nerd Recommendation: If you like YA fiction, or vampire fiction or YA vampire fiction (think Stephenie Meyer and the Twilight saga here), read the Morganville books. If you liked the boy wizard, read the Morganville books. Ok... if you like good books, read the Morganville books.

17 July 2008

Book Banter -- Stealing Shadows

Title: Stealing Shadows
Author: Kay Hooper
Length: 356 pages
Genre: thriller
Plot Basics: Cassie is a psychic, with a scary gift -- being able to read the minds of killers. After a mistake when trying to help the San Francisco police catch a killer, she moves to North Carolina and the home her reclusive aunt owned. But she can't run away from her gift and when she gets a flash of a pending murder, she tries to convince the local sheriff and prosecuting attorney to take her seriously. As a string of local women are murdered, Cassie, Matt the sheriff and Ben, the attorney, have to trust her powers to stop the killings.
Banter Points: Word Nerd was pleasantly surprised by this title. It was recommended to her by a librarian at Central (THANKS!) during a discussion of good paranormal/urban fantasy/thriller type books (for the record, she didn't like Charlaine Harris either...) A psychic working with cops sounded good to Word Nerd so she picked up this first one in Hooper's Bishop series. The plot had a good pace, a good twist and was better-than-average writing for a paperback thriller. Also, while there's a love story between Cassie and Ben, it's not as over the top as the romantic suspense in Allison Brennan's book
Bummer Points: So, this is the first of Hooper's Bishop series... and Bishop himself doesn't show until halfway through the book and is not a well-rounded character at all for a series bearing his name, at this point.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Fans of Allison Brennan and the J.D. Robb 'In Death' series should check out Hooper. Word Nerd's planning on continuing reading.

11 July 2008

Book Banter -- Dead Until Dark

Title: Dead Until Dark
Author: Charlaine Harris
Length: 292 pages
Genre: mystery/paranormal
Plot Basics: Sookie Stackhouse works as a cocktail waitress, doing her best to not let her "gift" -- the ability to read minds -- interfere with her life too much. It does make for hard times dating though, so when Bill, the very handsome vampire comes to the bar and Sookie realizes she can't hear him, she is interested. Other women in her small southern town start dying, however, and all indicators point to a vampire murderer and Sookie worries she may be next.
Banter Points: The scenes where Sookie "head-hopped" with her psychic abilities was a clever way to get into the minds of other characters.
Bummer Points: It's been a long time since Word Nerd really just didn't like a book. It was bound to happen. The plot for this seemed all over the map, Sookie was a bland character, Bill the vampire was even worse and though touted as a mystery novel, Word Nerd thinks it should have been labeled as a vampire romance with some dead people popping up inconveniently.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Word Nerd's not going to keep going with this series. Others love it, so you may just have to judge for yourself.

10 July 2008

Writers Group Launch

Saturday is it.

Word Nerd's new writers group is officially starting.

She is excited and nervous about this all at the same time.

First, it's exciting because, hey! new writing friends to bounce ideas off of.

Second, it makes her nervous because hey! new writing friends who might hate everything she puts on paper.

So far, it's a small group which is a good thing. When Word Nerd helped launch the Oshkosh Writers Club, 40-some people came to the first meeting. This group has been by application only and it looks like a neat mix of people who have applied and are coming -- some memoirists, a few fiction writers and a poet or two.

If you are in the Indy area and want to know more, drop a comment with your e-mail. There's still some room in the group.

08 July 2008

Editing

The Editing Meter over there --> shows that Word Nerd has edited half her novel-in-progress. This is deceptive.

What's been happening lately is that Word Nerd is going through all the chapters twice. While she's technically looked at and made some small fixes to Chs. 13-17, she really needs to go back and hit them harder.

Hopefully, this can start tonight, with printing out the chapters and at least getting through ch. 13 again with a much more intense level of scrutiny. The middle of the book is tough, because it needs to keep the plot moving along, build tension, but for this particular book -- be an interesting lull because the character grows complacent during this part of the story so that when she acts later, it's too late. (makes perfect sense, right?)

Anyhow, the middle of the book was also written while Word Nerd was going through a pretty big life transition of leaving her reporting job for a year in poverty 400 miles away. If the middle of the book feels like the author is keeping a big secret, it's because when she first drafted it, she was --that horrible time of knowing that she was sending out job applications and having interviews for other things that her current bosses knew nothing about. Ditto for the protagonist... only more of it for her is that she is the one being kept in the dark, that things are moving around her that she doesn't fully know about and can't stop.

This second-pass editing is where Word Nerd really rips chunks of the story out and inserts new stuff. Expect the Word Count Fluctuator to start jumping around soon.

This is such hard work. Word Nerd's new writing group starts Saturday and she's really looking forward to more community. More on that later...

03 July 2008

Book Banter -- Windy City

Title: Windy City
Author: Scott Simon
Length: 420 pages
Genre: literary/political fiction
Plot Basics: The mayor of Chicago is found dead, late one night, face down in the last of his pizza. Sunny Roopini, alderman of the 48th district, is the vice-mayor, and so is sworn in to be interim mayor until the council can elect a new mayor to fill out the rest of the dead mayor's term. Sunny, who has been thinking about getting out of politics, must try to keep order in the council and dodge the questions of a probing U.S. Attorney and make sure Chicago is left is competent hands after the vote.
Banter Points: Word Nerd loves Scott Simon during Weekend Edition Saturday. He's the voice of Saturday morning. He is also a darn good novelist and Word Nerd's sure this book will make her top 10 reads in 2008 list. SPOILER ALERT for what's next!



What amazed Word Nerd about this book was its subtlety. A reader can certainly look at how Sunny was elected mayor at the end because of his humility and humanity OR one can see how it was calculated and planned through the whole book.



Bummer Points: Word Nerd thinks she should have gotten it on audiobook if Scott Simon read it because a whole novel in that voice would have made in better.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Any one who likes politics, has written about politics, covered politics or just wants a good story should read this book.

02 July 2008

Two-timing

Word Nerd's been two-timing with her characters lately.


She's still working on the edits for her WIP, but she's also been checking in with some old friends -- characters she first dreamt up in graduate school.


She does not feel bad about this.


The editing of the WIP is hard, hard work. It's tough to look that critically at what you wrote and fix bad things and throw good stuff out that just doesn't fit and add new scenes that, hopefully, aren't terrible. Hard work. There's certainly a sense of accomplishment when the scene truly is better later, but it's no fun getting there.


Word Nerd's been needing some writing fun and so she went back to two characters she first invented for a story in her creative fiction class in graduate school. They are two gentlemen thieves -- sort of Scarlet Pimpernel-ish -- who fight well, dance well, dress well, flirt well and do an equally darn-good job of turning the kingdom on its head. In short, it's been a while since Word Nerd spent any time with them and it's fun to see where their latest caper is taking them. (Right now, inside the Magistrate's castle...)


It's not that Word Nerd doesn't love her WIP characters still... she just needs someone else (or two someones in these two characters) right now to keep things fresh.

01 July 2008

June Bibliometer

Here's the count for June:

10 books
2,874 pages
92/pages per day average



YTD:
51 books
17,322 total pages

30 June 2008

Book Banter -- Moonshine

Title: Moonshine
Author: Rob Thurman
Length: ~350 pages
Genre: paranormal/urban fantasy
Plot Basics: Cal Leandros and his brother Niko have taken up doing bodyguard/detective work in New York City, cleaning out monsters and working for the city's paranormal residents. They are hired to help one of the city's mafioso werewolves make a move against one of his competitors. The hit goes south and in retribution, Cal and Niko's friend -- Georgina -- is taken hostage. As they work to find and free her, Cal deals with his half-non-human side, a side that might save or destroy them all.
Banter Points: It had been a while since Word Nerd read the first book in this series, "Nightlife." Thurman gets a thumbs-up for nicely recapping the plot of book one without it feeling like an info dump. Also, Thurman writes good action sequences and nicely elevates the stakes in the plot throughout.
Bummer Points: Cal has a very sardonic voice through the book... while his insults are usually funny, the wry tone gets a little tiring.
Word Nerd Recommendation: If you like an author like Charles de Lint but would rather your urban fantasy be a bit grittier, this series is for you. Thurman has a third book out, "Madhouse" that Word Nerd will pick up sometime.

29 June 2008

Book Banter -- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Title: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
Author: Mark Haddon
Length: 221 pages
Genre: literary fiction
Plot Basics: Christopher is a 15 year-old autistic boy. One night, he finds his neighbor's poodle murdered in her front lawn and decides to be like Sherlock Holmes and figure out who killed the dog. His quest lands him in trouble with his father and opens up family secrets that Christopher wasn't supposed to know.
Banter Points: All the hype that surrounded this book a few years ago when it came out was well worth it. Haddon's writing -- a first person narration from Christopher -- is inventive and accurate. Anyone who's worked with an autistic or special needs kid will marvel at Christopher.
Bummer Points: The ending, to me, seemed like a let-down. Word Nerd wanted a little bit more of a glimpse that Christopher was going to be OK at the end of the story.
Word Nerd Recommendation: A must-read for everyone to gain a better appreciation of the unique gifts and talents that those around us who are labeled as "special needs" really have.

24 June 2008

Book Banter -- The Dark Flight Down

Title: The Dark Flight Down
Author: Marcus Sedgwick
Length: ~250 pages
Genre: YA horror
Plot Basics: Now free of the magician Valerian, Boy finds himself taken in by the mysterious Kepler and separated from his friend Willow. When Boy goes to retrieve something for Kepler from Valerian's old house, he's taken by the imperial guards of Emperor Frederick. Frederick's right-hand-man, Maxim, thinks Boy's connection to Valerian could lead him to the book and help him aid Frederick's quest to become immortal.
Banter Points: A wonderful sequel to "The Book of Dead Days." It wraps up loose ends from the first one, but is enough of a story on its own, perhaps even more gripping than the first.
Bummer Points: The revelation about Boy's true identity seemed a bit predictable.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Read it.

18 June 2008

May 2008 Bibliometer and 500th book

Word Nerd apologizes for this post being so late... she just kept forgetting to crunch the stats.

Here's the reading for May:
8 books
3,493 pages
avg. 113 pages/day

YTD:
41 books
14,538 pages
avg. book length: 354.6 pages

Also, Word Nerd has crossed the 500 book milestone since starting her list! It took a little better than five years, but she has now read 500 (actually, 501) books since March 2003.

The book to cross the 500 mark? The Book of Dead Days by Marcus Sedgwick.

17 June 2008

Book Banter -- The Book of Dead Days

Title: The Book of Dead Days
Author: Marcus Sedgwick
Length: 273 pages
Genre: YA/paranormal/horror
Plot Basics: Boy spends his life as the famulus for the magician Valerian, assisting him with his stage show and doing his bidding, hoping to please the enigmatic man. During the dead days between Christmas and New Year's Valerian sends Boy on an errand to retrieve some vital information for him. When the errand goes awry, Boy, Valerian and Boy's friend Willow start a race against time to find a piece of knowledge to keep Valerian alive.
Banter Points: Gripping and un-put-down-able. Sedgwick keeps the tension high throughout the whole story but doesn't lose his wonderfully sparse and lyrical style because of it. One part "The Prestige," one part "The Gunslinger" and one part invention, Sedgwick delivers all around with "Dead Days."
Bummer Points: Word Nerd wishes this were actually an adult book instead of a YA title because she's interested to see how Sedgwick would have ramped up all the characters.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Grab a copy and read it in the bright light of the day because you won't want to read it in the dark!

16 June 2008

Book Banter -- Murder Melts in Your Mouth

Title: Murder Melts in Your Mouth (Blackbird Sisters mystery)
Author: Nancy Martin
Length: ~280 pages
Genre: mystery
Banter Points: Philadelphia amateur sleuth Nora Blackbird is trying to figure out who was responsible for the death of philanthropist Hoyt Cavendish. Unfortunately for Nora, all the signs point to one of two people -- either her father, mysteriously returned, or her best friend, Lexie. As the investigation continues, Nora discovers new things about her family and find the truth about Hoyt's murder, with the help of her off-again Mafia boyfriend Mick Abruzzo.
Banter Points: This was a good entry into a good series. It was nice to see Nora's parents as characters and this book had a little more depth for Nora and everyone else and less of the silly antics that pervaded the other ones. Martin also seemed to realize that Nora's repetitive fainting was getting old as a plot device and used it sparingly in this book.
Bummer Points: It'll be awhile before Martin comes out with the next one...
Word Nerd Recommendation: Thumbs up again for the Blackbird Sisters. Fans of Janet Evanovich, take note.

11 June 2008

Word Nerd Returns

Word Nerd is packing up her car tomorrow and heading back to the northern climes of Wisconsin to see her pals from her reporter days.

She is very excited about this.

She might even skulk about the Oshkosh Public Library a bit for old times' sake.

After this trip, Word Nerd also plans to return to some serious work on the book. It's been sorely lacking of late with major work deadlines and writing workshops to teach and travel. She also really hoping to return to doing author interviews to bring some regularity back to the blog. It's harder to do those since they aren't work related anymore, but far from impossible. (Maybe here's Word Nerd's public thanks to the authorsontheweb.com promoters who are keeping Word Nerd in review copies and interviews so far.)

Anyway... if you are a O-towner, keep your eyes open for Word Nerd and say hi.

10 June 2008

Book Banter -- Blood Rites

Title: Blood Rites (Dresden Files, book 6)
Author: Jim Butcher
Length: 372 pages
Genre: urban fantasy
Plot Basics: Chicago's only professional wizard Harry Dresden accepts a case from Thomas, a White Court vampire who has helped Harry out in the past. The case is to protect an adult film director from a wacky, but deadly, entropy curse that keeps hurting people around him. Being Harry, however, his goals to do the right thing and protect women land him in much hotter water than he expected, going up toe-to-toe with a succubus, a nest of vampires, and undead lord and his own heritage.
Banter Points: Word Nerd really likes this series. Just to be clear, Word Nerd really likes this series. One of the biggest things that sets it apart is how Harry Dresden is forced to change through the series. By book six, it is very much not the same Harry readers were introduced to in book one. Butcher manages, however, to not only deliver a great character story, but his fight scenes and the book's action makes for a fast-paced, page-turner.
Bummer Points: Word Nerd was a bit disappointed with how Butcher did some pretty big info dumps in this book. They were thinly veiled as a confession from Harry's former mentor Ebeneezer, but all in all, still an info dump.
Word Nerd Recommendation: If you haven't become familiar with this other wizard named Harry, it's high time.

03 June 2008

New Release

Today this book hits shelves.


It's the fourth book in Rachel Caine's Morganville Vampire series. The first three have been great reads and if the cover art is any indication, this one looks good too. Word Nerd may be making an emergency trip to Borders after work today to pick herself up a copy.


As if that wasn't enough, next Thursday, this one comes out.


Since that picture is small, it's "Kushiel's Mercy" the sixth of Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel books, a top-notch fantasy series.

Too many good books. Not enough hours in the day.