29 February 2008

February 2008 Bibliometer*

*Updated a 4:15 p.m. EST because Word Nerd finished reading a book at work she wasn't expecting to.

Happy Leap Day! That aside, time for the February Bibliometer readings.

Word Nerd knows with more than 350 pages left in the book she's reading and won't have time to read that much still today, making it safe to close out February's bibliometer today.

The totals are:
10 books
3162 total pages
109 pages/day

16 books
4957 pages
Avg. book length: 310 pages

Feb 07: 5 books
Feb 06: 6 books

27 February 2008

Book Banter -- Getting the Girl

Title: Getting the Girl
Author: Markus Zusak
Genre: YA
Length: 250 pages
Plot Basics: Cameron Wolfe dreams about girls. A lot. He's a teenage boy. His fascination though is heightened by his older brother Ruben's new girlfriend, Octavia. Cam is drawn to her and through that borderline obsession starts coming into his own as a young man, learning things about family and life.
Banter Points: Word Nerd didn't know about this Zusak book until she found it on the shelf at Half-Price Books and bought it, solely because it was Zusak. As usual, Zusak writes a poignantly crisp book with elegant turns of phrase that are enlightening and sophisticated. Cam Wolfe is a crushingly real character trying to find his place in the world. Also, in the world of YA fiction, it's refreshing to see a story about boys dealing with being teenagers and not another entry in the litany of "gossip girl" like books.
Bummer Points: Apparently, this is a sequel to a book called "Fighting Ruben Wolfe." Word Nerd now wants to find that title too. She will have to be patient until the hold on it comes in at the library. Cam also seemed like a bit of an early incantation of Ed Kennedy, the protagonist of Zusak's "I am the Messenger."
Word Nerd Recommendation: If you have an older teenage boy, or a younger one who's a good reader, introduce him to Zusak and Cam Wolfe. Also, if you are a grown-up and like poignant stories, read it.

25 February 2008

Book Banter -- The Painter of Battles

Title: The Painter of Battles
Author: Arturo Perez-Reverte
Genre: Literary fiction
Length: 210 pages
Plot Basics: For thirty years, Falques was a war photojournalist, winning international awards for his images from conflicts around the globe. Now, he had traded in his camera for paintbrushes and is painting a battle mural inside an old tower. One afternoon, a man whose photograph he took years before shows up and explains to Falques that the photo ruined his life and in retribution, is going to kill him. But before he does, the two men engage in a dialogue about war and art and what effects they have on observers and survivors.
Banter Points: Word Nerd was very excited for Perez-Reverte's latest novel. And this one is amazingly weighty for being only 200-odd pages long. Perez-Reverte, as usual, crafts poignant sentences within a plot that involves danger and risk and again peoples his book with protagonists that are flawed and human. Perez-Reverte also had an interesting technique for how he tagged dialogue that worked for this book, but in other places would have been wildly distracting.
Bummer Points: Having recently read "Love in the Time of Cholera," "The Painter of Battles" was a little bit too much poetic prose originally written in Spanish to come on its heels. On the other hand, that's probably backwards praise that it reminded Word Nerd of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Word Nerd was hoping for a more tense book like Perez-Reverte's "Queen of the South" or "Club Dumas" and was disappointed that this wasn't like that. Also, for non-art historians, the long sections about other famous war paintings fell flat because of the reader's unfamiliarity with the piece.
Word Nerd Recommendation: If you like books that get into philosophy, this is a good one. If you are looking for a Perez-Reverte title like "Captain Alatrise" or "Club Dumas," you'll likely be disappointed with "Painter of Battles" because it veers so sharply from his other styles.

22 February 2008

Book Banter -- Private Demon

Title: Private Demon (Darkyn bk. 2)
Author: Lynn Viehl
Genre: Paranormal
Length: 287 pages
Plot Basics: A few spoilers here from book 1, sorry.

After Dr. Alexandra Keller fixes Thierry Durand's injuries, he cannot escape the madness in his mind from the torture inflicted on him. He flees New Orleans with Kyn hunters/assassins on his trail and goes to Chicago to avenge the attack on Luisa Lopez. In Chicago, he meets Jema Shaw, a frail museum worker and begins visiting her in her dreams. As the dreams get more intense, so does the hunt for Thierry and for Alex's brother, John, who is on the run from both Kyn and Brethren. And Jema turns out to hold a dark secret of her own.
Banter Points: Book two nicely picked up where book one left off, instead of jumping too far ahead in time and having to explaing the intervening time in flashbacks.
Bummer Points: This book was a little all-over for me. It just wasn't as solid as the first one... Word Nerd struggled with whether Alex Keller or Jema Shaw was the true leading lady for this book, and the same with the men -- Thierry, Valentin, Michael -- all were sort of leading man. As a result, nobody really got the attention and development they deserved.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Book three in the series will probably show up on the TBR pile at some point, but not right away. Again, a pretty good showing in the world of vampire fiction, but could have been better.

19 February 2008

Book Banter -- Summer Knight

Title: Summer Knight
Author: Jim Butcher
Genre: fantasy
Length: 371 pages
Plot Basics: Chicago's only wizard, Harry Dresden's latest client isn't quite human. In fact, she's not human at all, but Mab, Winter Queen of the faeries. Mab forces Harry to investigate the death of the Summer Knight, an important person on the other side of faerie politics. If Harry doesn't reveal the real killer on time, the faerie courts will end up in a war that could result in either the next ice age or turn everything into oven. Harry's handled the heat from cases in the past, but this new one has colder consequences than he may want to face.
Banter Points: Again a resounding "huzzah" for Butcher's inventive series. After the first two books which were mediocre, book three and now book four in the Dresden files have been great. This one was another page-turner with a great level of intrigue between the faerie courts to go along with the great actions sequences Butcher writes.
Bummer Points: Some bad stuff happened to Dresden's special lady friend at the end of book three and nothing's happened yet to resolve that part of the plot.
Word Nerd Recommendation: It's a fun series. A must-read for fans of Rachel Caine or Steven Brust.

13 February 2008


Word Nerd's day might have just been made.

A copy of Arturo Perez-Reverte's "A Painter of Battles" is now listed in transit to her from the library system. This book released in early January and Word Nerd has eagerly been waiting to get a chance to read it. It took about six weeks from release date to getting it processed and out to readers in the library system.

And now that it's on its way, Word Nerd is very excited.

Author Answers with Kristin Hannah

This week's author is writer Kristin Hannah. Her newest book, Firefly Lane, recently hit shelves.

For more on Hannah, check out her website.

WN: What inspired you to write Firefly Lane?
HANNAH: My first thought--years ago, when I was trying to figure out where to go next in my work--was that I wanted to write the big women's friendship book. Many of these books have been written before, but I felt there hadn't been one for my generation, and I wanted to try and be our voice. To write about the issues that face our lives these days, the way we balance motherhood with being wives and friends and individuals. It's a tricky act we women set out to accomplish, and the older I get, the more I see how much it rests on our female friendships. It's really my girlfriends who keep me--relatively--sane. I don't know what I'd do without them. And that was really the point of Firefly Lane. It's my valentine to girlfriends.Once I got into the novel, and delved into the decades of my life, I found myself immersed in the old songs, the old feelings, everything from that first crush on David Cassidy (my girlfriend Megan liked Davy Jones--to each our own) to that first sip of Boone's Farm. It was a blast to relive all of that without having to sit through high school again or worry about my complexion.

WN: What was your writing process like for this novel and was it any different than how you approached your past works?
HANNAH: Over the course of my career, my process has changed several times. I have come to accept that it's a fluid thing, process. When I first began writing, I was very analytical, very lawyerly. I researched for a set amount of time, wrote out note cards and organized them in file boxes, and outlined the entire novel scene by scene. I wrote methodically, polishing each scene before I moved onto the next. This way worked for several years, but as my novels became more complex, this way began to hinder me. I understood that it was useless to perfect each scene, since many of them would be lost in revision. There have been a few morphs along the way, but now I write in a very unstructured way. I still do the research first, still come up with a detailed synopsis that outlines the three acts of the novel, and then I write until the characters reveal themselves to me. I don't know how else to say it. I know exactly what I want to say in a novel, but now necessarily how I want to say it. For example, at one point, Firefly Lane featured several viewpoint characters, but I finally realized that this was supposed to be the story of Kate and Tully, so I cut all the other character's viewpoints and story lines and told it all through the women's eyes.

WN: Were you a reader as a kid? What turned you on to the idea of being a writer?
HANNAH: Like most writers, I was--and am--a voracious reader. As a child, my favorites were Roald Dahl, Tolkein, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Victoria Holt. Many of my favorite current authors are listed on my website, but I'm always finding new books and new writers. It's part of the fun of reading. Initially, of course, I did not want to be a writer. I was a lawyer and really saw my life going in that direction, but when my mother was in the hospital with breast cancer, she said, "That law's all very well and good, but you're going to be a writer." Honestly, I was stunned. We spent the final months of her life collaborating on a bad historical romance, but it brought us together. She really handed the dream to me, fully wrapped. It took me a few years to open it, but once I did I never looked back. I like to think she's watching me from Heaven. Probably with a red editing pen...

WN: What's the most influential book you've read and why?
HANNAH: To Kill a Mockingbird. To me, it's the perfect novel--a great story, a beautiful voice, an iconic character, a powerful message. Next, I'd list The Prince of Tides and Lonesome Dove as examples of big commercial fiction that gets under your skin, changes the way you see the world, and never lets go. I still remember reading all of those novels for the first time.

WN: What's the best advice you received as a writer?
HANNAH: I've received a lot of advice over the years and a lot of it has turned out to be good, even if I didn't know it at the time. However, I'm going to give the top spot to Linda Lael Miller, who wrapped up everything I believe about how to survive in this business in three words: keep showing up. In the end, that's what it's about. Writers write. We keep writing when things in our life are tough, when our careers are in trouble, when the business is dangerous. We believe in what we do and we keep doing it. One book after another, preferably on time, whether someone is paying you or not.

WN: What's next for you as a writer?
HANNAH: I have just turned in my next book. Phew! What a lovely feeling it is to get the manuscript off your desk. Of course, it comes right back, and the editing begins. Anyway, I don't have a title yet, but it's a novel that's very different from Firefly. I'm not going to say much yet, because I have a lot of work left to do, and I don't know how it wil end up, but I will say this: for the first time in my career, I've focused on a plot, and this is a page turner.

12 February 2008

Book Banter -- The Tea Rose

Title: The Tea Rose
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Genre: historical fiction
Length: 544 pages
Plot Basics: Fiona Finnegan has only ever known a life of working poverty in Whitechapel, London. As a teenager, she packs tea for the Burton Tea Company to add to her family's income, but tries to squirrel away a little money so she and her intended, Joe Bristow, can open a shop of their own one day. But it's a dangerous time in Whitechapel, with a killer on the loose and the dock workers threatening to strike. Fiona and Joe's lives are ripped apart by a series of events that take them both to New York and back and forces them to confront their pasts and never give up on the love they have for each other.
Banter Points: Word Nerd picked this book up after getting to interview Donnelly and getting a review copy of the sequel sent to her. Word Nerd's a bit of a stickler for reading series books in order and she's really glad she did. Historicals aren't usually Word Nerd's cup of tea (sorry, pun intended), but she got really involved with the lives of Fiona and Joe. There was also a pretty good unexpected moment at the end.
Bummer Points: At times, the story moved rather slowly.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Pretty good read; could be a good entrance for others unaccustomed to reading historicals. And Word Nerd's looking forward to the sequel.

08 February 2008

Book Banter -- News Blues

Title: News Blues (Advanced Reader Copy)
Author: Marianne Mancusi
Length: ~300 pages
Genre: chick lit
Plot Basics: Maddy Madison is a producer for News 9, stuck forever doing pieces like Cosmetics That Kill, when her dream job would be producing hard news pieces for the show Newsline. When News 9 launches a new series, Maddy is tapped as the producer and given a photographer to work with exclusively. And the new photographer, Jamie, sets Maddy's heart a-flutter. But her world gets turned upside down as her parents' marriage falls apart and her younger sister comes to live with her. Maddy and Jamie get a hot tip on a great story but going after it could put their chances for a relationship on the rocks as well as Maddy's careers dreams.
Banter Points: Word Nerd is always a bit wary of books that have reporters as main characters. Luckily, Mancusi was an Emmy award winning producer herself, so this story rings true. It's a light-hearted and breezy story that's pretty amusing.
Bummer Points: Well, it's an ARC which means there were still some problems with the book, like an entire missing page. Word Nerd's confident they will get that one fixed, but hopes somebody noticed all the rest of the typos too. Also, while Word Nerd found this title entertaining, it was slightly too fluffy for her tastes.
Word Nerd Recommendation: If you like light-hearted, this is for you. Janet Evanovich fans could do well with this book from Mancusi. If you want something to be a little more thoughtful or provoking, this is not the book for you.

07 February 2008

Book News

USA Today is reporting that Stephenie Meyers' fourth and final book in her Twilight series will be out this summer.

For the full scoop, click here and don't be distracted by the fact that the headline mentions John Grisham.

06 February 2008

Author Answers with Karen Miller

This week's featured author is Karen Miller. She has written the Kingmaker, Kingbreaker duology and has also some Stargate SG-1 related titles.

For more about her, check out her website.

WN: You write fantasy books. What got you interested in that genre?
MILLER: The Narnia books captured my imagination when I was a child, and Isought out more and more books in the genre as I grew up. I readeverything vaguely sf and fantasy-related in the school and town library, and kept on reading in the genre after leaving school. I love the romanticism of fantasy, I love the otherness of it. I love the fact that fantasy lets writers and readers explore big, sweeping, emotionalthemes like the meaning of good and evil, heroism, sacrifice ... and on a really big, lavish canvas. I love the way you can play with historyin fantasy.

WN: A lot of fantasy books have elaborately created worlds. How did you go about world-building?
MILLER: I have a strong background in studying history. I love reading about ancient cultures, and British/European societies up to around the mid1600s. Those are the backgrounds I know and understand, so the worldbuilding I've done to date has been deeply influenced by that absorbedinformation. If I don't know things as thoroughly as I need to, I readbooks and hunt down tv/dvd documentaries that deal with the questionand find out more things. Then I give them a twist to suit the kind of society I'm trying to create. Basically it's a case of take what I know, find out more, then shake it all around to suit the kind of storyI'm telling and its characters. I'm not writing historical fiction, soI look for inspiration from human history and move on from there. Andwherever possible, I research on site, or in museums. The Oriental Museum in the University of Chicago is one of my favourite places inthe world.

WN: Were you a reader as a kid? What turned you on to the idea of being a writer?
MILLER: Totally. I can't remember a time when I didn't read. I've been devouring stories since I was very little. And I don't remember when Ididn't want to write, either. I used to make up stories about the characters in tv shows I loved to watch!

WN: What's the most influential book you've read and why?
MILLER: The Game of Kings, by Dorothy Dunnett. It's the first in her world-famous Lymond Chronicles. It's historical fiction, mixing up real life historical figures and her own creations. Utterly brilliant. Impeccable research, mesmerising characters, fabulous narrative. Ithink she was one of the best writers ever born. Reading the first book got me hooked on the whole series, and reading that series taught me somuch about character, about point of view, about emotionally engagingthe reader. Brilliant.

WN: What's the best advice you received as a writer?
Never give up. It was one of my university lecturers, who showed anassignment I'd written to a writer friend. The friend cried, apparently. (She was meant to! *g*) So the lecturer came back to me andsaid, you're not ready yet but don't give up. You will be one day. Andthat got me through a lot of self-doubt, over the years.

WN: What's next for you as a writer?
MILLER: A nervous breakdown. *g*
I'm just finishing my next Stargate novel. It needs a final tweak, butit's pretty much done. I'm also finishing bk 3 of my current trilogy, Godspeaker. Then I have to start on the first draft of the next book in the series that's coming out under a pen-name. The first book is out in April, in Australia/New Zealand. Next year in the US/UK. After that I start the sequel to the first two Kingmaker, Kingbreaker books. I'm booked to do a sequel/prequel in that series. Beyond that I have 2 more Stargate novels to write, and the third contracted in the pen-name series. Then I might stop for a minute and smell the roses.

05 February 2008

January 2008 Bibliometer

Time once again for checking the bibliometer readings.

7 books
1962 pages
63 pages/day average

Looking back over past years, January always seems to be a bit sparser for book and total page count. Maybe it's the holiday carry-over.

04 February 2008

Book Banter -- Eclipse

Title: Eclipse
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Genre: YA/paranormal
Length: ~640 pages
Plot Basics: Bella Swan is rapidly approaching her graduation day, which means she's getting closer to being able to be with Edward Cullen forever. But Bella misses the friendship she once had with Jacob Black. As she reconnects with Jake, Edward and his family must come to an uneasy truce with Jacob's pack to protect Bella. And Bella discovers that love can take many forms.
Banter Points: Word Nerd wishes for once that she was a teenage girl so her gushing about this book and series was more age appropriate. Again, Word Nerd loves these characters, finds the plot completely compelling and wants Meyer to hurry up and write the next one! This is a great entry in the world of vampire/human/werewolf love triangles. The emotional depth and rawness experienced by all the characters is great.
Bummer Points: Word Nerd sort of wishes things turned out a little better at the end for one of the characters (not saying who/why so spoilers can be avoided...)
Word Nerd Recommendation: If you like YA fiction or you like vampire fiction, these should be on your TBR list.

01 February 2008

Book Banter -- The Kill

Title: The Kill
Author: Allison Brennan
Genre: Romantic suspense
Length: 407 pages
Plot Basics: Trace Evidence scientist and former FBI agent Olivia St. Martin helped convict her sister's abducter and killer when she was a child. Now, when she learns new evidence has freed the man she thought was the killer, she can't sit idly by. Olivia takes a huge risk and joins an investigation in Seattle looking into the disappearances and deaths of several girls in scenarios that match her sisters. Olivia and Det. Zack Travis make headway on the case and Olivia makes headway in opening up her life and her past to the charming detective.
Banter Points: This is an airplane book, all the way around. The plot moves and keeps you turning pages, but it's not a mind-bender by any means.
Bummer Points: Of Brennan's three books in the series, (The Prey and The Hunt being the other two) this one was not the best. All three were predicated on this group of former roommates (Olivia from this book, and her friends Miranda and Rowan) who all had horrible abduction/stalker experiences in their lives. Word Nerd just found in this one that it was too much to believe that there was another woman who lived through this and then became connected to the FBI.
Word Nerd Recommendation: The interesting thing about this series is how much Brennan's writing improved over the books. One was terribly choppy, two was spot-on and three was decent. If you like good page-turners that don't need a lot of thinking and can handle some sappy romance, these are worth your time.