30 March 2009

Book Banter -- Illegal

Title: Illegal
Author: Paul Levine
Length: 367 pages
Genre: legal mystery
Plot Basics: Hot-shot lawyer Jimmy "Royal" Payne is watching his career go down the drain after he was set up on a sting operation to bribe a judge. But when he finds a young Mexican boy, Tino, who was separated from his mother during a border crossing, Payne takes it upon himself to reunite the family, amidst a growing wave of anti-immigration sentiment.
Banter Points: This is definitely a book for the times, given the political debates about immigration. Jimmy Payne was reminiscent of Levine's other lawyer hero, Steve Solomon from the "Solomon v. Lord" series, but had his own set of hang-ups that made the two characters different. Tino was a great character, full of a youthful feistiness, that made him a treat to read about.
Bummer Points: This is definitely a book for the times. Levine's cultural references (to things like the flop of the last Indiana Jones movie) were very specific and likely will lose their punch in a few years. The plot is rather predictable as well and while Jimmy Payne is not Steve Solomon, the characters are quite similar. Overall, it seems like Payne is sort of recycled from Solomon.
Word Nerd Recommendation: It's a good airplane read, but if you are looking for a gripping legal thriller, this isn't it.

24 March 2009

Book Banter -- The Domino Men

Title: The Domino Men
Author: Jonathan Barnes
Length: 382 pages
Genre: modern fantasy
Plot Basics: Henry Lamb is a file clerk for the national civil service archive. When his grandfather has a stroke, Henry is recruited by a shadowy agency called the Directorate to continue his grandfather's secret work -- which Henry knows nothing about. He ends up on a mad-cap search for a woman named Estella and pursued (or led) to her by the mysterious Domino Men, all in an attempt to stop London from falling victim to the Leviathan, who is owed the whole city from a Faustian bargain made years ago by Queen Victoria.
Banter Points: So, the plot summary sounds weird, that's because the book's weird, but it's AMAZINGLY so. The plot unfolds very naturally, actually, and brings the reader along so gently that you forget just how strange this whole set-up really is.

Word Nerd is amazed at Barnes' sophomore offering after she was less than thrilled with his debut, "The Somnambulist." Henry Lamb is a delightful character, sort of Arthur Dent-ish in his approach to suddenly having to save the world. The whole book has a bit of a feel of Hitchhiker's Guide to it... if you infuse that with a big does of H.P. Lovecraft and a splash of "V for Vendetta."
Bummer Points: Word Nerd can't say what she thinks is a bummer without ruining the book. Sorry. She's staying spoiler free here today.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Two thumbs way up. Fans of quiet horror and modern fantasy, this is a must-read. Watch for The Domino Men on Word Nerd's Top Ten in 2009.

23 March 2009


Word Nerd worked this weekend on finishing rewrites to chapters 27 and 28 of the WIP. She was really hoping she was past this point of ripping out sections and adding new, but that wasn't the way of it. In fact, this weekend, she wrote in a new minor character (!) to really bring the scenes to life. A little bit of back work will get this person into some earlier chapters too, until her big scenes in these chapters.

This new character isn't long for this world, but giving her a few scenes and a name keeps her from being a throw-away character. It would be easier to just make her a nobody, but doing that deprives the main character of some actions and reactions to a real character. Giving a minor character a bit of a personality helps to make the story feel less wooden and gives minor characters some bit of purpose and motivation.

Word Nerd knows enough about this character that were she so inclined, she could write a separate short story about her. One of the other minor characters from the WIP may just get her own short story because she won't leave Word Nerd alone.

The editing now is back on track and Word Nerd hopes to be done with this process soon.

17 March 2009

Book Banter -- The Black Ice

Title: The Black Ice (Harry Bosch, bk. 2)
Author: Michael Connelly
Length: ~400 pages
Genre: mystery
Plot Basics: LAPD Detective Harry Bosch doesn't get the call about the apparent suicide of another cop, because the department is determined to keep it under wraps. Bosch realizes there is more to the case than what it seems, particularly as it intersects with another murder investigation he's working on. Soon, Harry is tracking drug smugglers running black ice from Mexico into California and the cartel is gunning for him as he tries to figure out who really killed whom.
Banter Points: It was nice to get back to Harry Bosch soon after reading the first one in this series because the bigger plot line about what happened to Harry was fresher. Word Nerd didn't like this one quite as well as the Black Echo, but it was still a good series mystery read.
Bummer Points: See above.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Word Nerd's sticking with the series, largely in preparation for Bouchercon.

10 March 2009

Back to the paper and pencil

Word Nerd has barely written anything in the past two weeks because everything has been so busy.

Last night, knowing she needed to get back into revisions, Word Nerd pulled out the paper and pencil to use to rewrite a chapter or two of the WIP. It's a section she's not sure about -- whether it needs a rewrite at all, or just pretty major edit. So far, it's a mix of both, keeping some sections of the chapter and overhauling the boring parts.

It's sort of ironic, that these two chapters were the last one that Word Nerd wrote by hand before switching to writing on the computer to finish off the book, and now she's redoing them by hand. The few pages she wrote last night went well. There's something more visceral about writing by hand than on the computer.

Hopefully this will get her back in the swing of things to finish off this last set of revisions. Somebody tell her that she needs to finish this book again.

05 March 2009

Book Banter -- The Black Echo

Title: The Black Echo (Harry Bosch, bk. 1)
Author: Michael Connelly
Length: ~400 pages
Genre: Mystery
Plot Basics: LAPD Detective Harry Bosch gets a call on a weekend afternoon about a dead body in a drainage tunnel. The police believe that the man OD'ed, but Bosch recognizes the man from serving with him in Vietnam and thinks the case is really a murder. The case takes Bosch deep into his past as a 'tunnel rat' during the war and helps the city and FBI solve an bank heist.
Banter Points: Word Nerd picked up the first of the Harry Bosch novels because Connelly is going to be the guest at Bouchercon this fall, which she is really hoping to attend. She thought it was a good idea to read some of his stuff before then. This was a good idea too because it was a good book. Bosch is the classic loner detective character, but Connelly does this well and makes Bosch likeable (sort of) despite his attitude.
Bummer Points: Word Nerd is looking at a long back list to get through all of the Harry Bosch novels.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Mystery fans, this is a well-known series in the genre that's worth exploring at least a little bit. Non-mystery fans, this is a pretty good heist story.