26 February 2009

Book Banter -- Land of a Hundred Wonders

Title: Land of a Hundred Wonders
Author: Lesley Kagen
Length: ~280 pages
Genre: literary fiction
Plot Basics: Gibby McGraw is the local town reporter in her small Kentucky town... all part of her effort to become QR (quite right) after a devastating car accident killed her parents and made her NQR (not quite right). In her investigative reporting efforts, she stumbles across the biggest story possible in her town... but her easily distracted mind makes it hard for her to report and leads her to learning that those she thinks are QR have their own secrets.
Banter Points: Kagen is a master of colloquial dialogue. Many times this just comes off and strange in books, with characters dropping consonants/vowels, etc. but Kagen does it so well that it work.
Bummer Points: Word Nerd was really excited for this book after loving Kagen's debut novel, but was a little disappointed with this one. The book moves along fine until the end, which feels like one great big infodump of information that the reader had no clues about throughout the book. While it does a good job of disorienting Gibby, it's too deus ex machina for the reader, to reveal that many truths that were un-hinted at all along.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Read Kagen's first book first and then read this one, if you want.

19 February 2009

Book Banter -- Tripwire

Title: Tripwire (Jack Reacher, bk. 3).
Author: Lee Child
Length: ~400 pages
Genre: mystery/thriller
Plot Basics: Reacher is tracked down in the Florida Keys by a low-level PI. A few hours later, the PI turns up dead and Reacher decided to find out who sent him and why he was killed. The trail takes Reacher back to Jodie Garber, the daughter of his former CO and a girl he's always been sweet on. Together, they start to unravel an MIA case from Vietnam that could make them pay for information with their lives.
Banter Points: Word Nerd has enjoyed the Reacher books so far, and she thinks this one may be the best of the ones she's read. What was nice about this was the Reacher/Jodie plotline and how this relationship could change Reacher. Oh, and the plot has a good twist at the end.
Bummer Points: Apparently, Child writes some of the Reacher books in 1st person and some in 3rd person. This was a 3rd person book and Word Nerd wants back into 1st person to find out what's really going on in Reacher's head.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Read the series.

13 February 2009

My interview

Jennifer, over at Adventures of Badgergirl, was offering to send interview questions to fellow bloggers. Since I normally interview people as Word Nerd, I thought this would be fun.

1. What's the best part about your Starfish job?

The best part about my job at Starfish is getting to tell people about the great kids we serve. A lot of people write off low-income kids as all being headed for trouble and up to no good. But for the kids I know, that's not the case at all. They are bright and smart and funny and talented and happen to come from homes that don't have the financial resources. It's so rewarding to know that what I'm doing -- even as a fundraiser -- is making it possible for Starfish Scholars to get the kind of help they need and radically change their future and their family's future.

2. You left Wisconsin to move back to Indiana. What's your favorite thing about Indianapolis?

My favorite thing about Indianapolis -- wow, this is a tough question. Indy is a great city. There's lots of culture here, but it's still got the friendly feeling of a smaller town. I love the how accessible the arts are here, from the art museum being free to the First Friday gallery nights. Even though I'm a writer and not a visual artist, it's very inspiring. And, Indy's closer to home.

3. You're the Word Nerd. I have to ask a question about books. What's the best one you've read in the last year or so?

Do you know how hard this question is? In the last year or so, I've read more than 100 books, which is an insane number. If I go by my "Word Nerd" award list, the best book in the last year was "Water for Elephants" by Sara Gruen. However, during the last year, I've devoured almost all of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series, and I have to say, as a collected body of work, those are some darn fun books -- mystery, magic, monsters, a wise-cracking wizard, how can you go wrong?

4. We admit it. We all swoon when we get to talk to everyone's favorite state Representative here in Oshkosh. Are you jealous I still get to hear his voice on a fairly regular basis?

If we go just on voice alone, perhaps a little bit. But when combined with all the stress of government reporting and combing through campaign finance records and covering elections, etc. etc., I can't say I'm jealous at all. I haven't met my state rep. here in Indy, but I'm guessing her/his voice wouldn't be as good.

5. In a fight, who would win? A T-Rex or 10,000 5-year-olds lead into the fight by a battle-hardened 7-year-old riding a St. Bernard?

Oh my. Where is the world did this question come from? I think this is a tough one. The T-Rex obviously has some offensive advantages, such as being able to eat and squash 5-year-olds. However, under the guidance of that kid on the St. Bernard, I guess it's possible that the 5-year-olds could surround the T-rex and do some real damage. On the other hand, I think I'm going to have to go with the T-Rex as the winner, because I don't think the 5-year-olds would really do well in battle -- I think many of them would be paralyzed with fear and unable to act after seeing some of their fellow warriors get gobbled up. Yeah, the T-Rex.

Anybody else want to play? Leave a comment and I'll send you fun interview questions too.

12 February 2009

Author Answers with Kelly Parra (redux)

Word Nerd's taking the day off from blogging and letting author Kelly Parra talk about her new book and the writing life in this edition of Author Answers. Kelly's been here before, when her first book "Graffiti Girl" came out. Now, she's talking about her sophomore effort, "Invisible Touch."

WN: What's "Invisible Touch" about? Where did the idea for this story come from?
PARRA: Invisible Touch is about Kara, who after experiencing a tragic boating accident where she lost her father, awakes with a gift or more like a curse. She begins to see "signs" or symbols on individuals and learns to piece the signs together like a puzzle in order to help save them from unfortunate fates. Because no one believed what she was seeing, she keeps her gift secret and blogs about it anonymously on a Secret Fates blog. The stakes are risen higher than ever before when she sees a gun on a classmate and the clues lead her to a boy on the wrong side of town. There's romance, suspense, and mystery.

WN: Was it harder or easier to write your second book? Why?
PARRA: This book was harder for different reasons. Invisible Touch is a mystery while my first book, Graffiti Girl was not. I had to keep the reader guessing and according to some feedback, I accomplished that. :) Also there is a level of grief in this novel that was emotionally draining to write.

WN: What are you currently working on?
PARRA: I'm working on a book that is even more challenging than the first two. It seems I challenge myself more and more. My current work-in-progress is a young adult novel based in the future. That means I have to create my own world which has been a lot of hard work, but exciting at the same time. I hope to share more once I find an interested publisher.

WN: YA fiction has had a huge boom in the last few years. What do you see as the causes for that and the challenges for the future of YA fiction?
PARRA: Many writers and readers can thank J.K. Rowling for opening the door for the latest great boom of YA fiction, then with the success of the Twilight series and more adapted films have helped to bring these exciting stories to more readers. I think with the rush of YA fiction hitting shelves some of the little guys can get overlooked and with the hardships on the economy, I believe editors will become more hesitant taking on new authors in the future.

WN: What piece of advice has helped you the most as a writer?
PARRA: Its always been to READ and to STUDY what you read. When you read your favorite authors, you learn what you enjoy about a book: the characters, the story, the voice? And it helps you to develop your own writing style.

WN: What's your favorite word and why?
PARRA: "and". haha! I'm not all that sure it's my favorite but its the one word I find myself having to edit out as much as I can when I write. :)

09 February 2009

Book Banter -- Love in the Time of Fridges

Title: Love in the Time of Fridges
Author: Tim Scott
Length: 347 pages
Genre: Sci-fi
Plot Basics: Huckleberry Lindbergh returns to the city of New Seattle to try to pick up the threads of his life. He used to be a New Seattle policeman, but he left that life to try to escape personal pain. Now, as returns, he finds the city run by the Department of Health and Safety, with their inane warnings "Don't die for no reason, there's really no point." Within hours of arriving, he's helping a girl move some contraband, sentient fridges (and a tumble dryer), getting head hacked and wondering why he returned at all.
Banter Points: Word Nerd found this book just browsing the new sci-fi books section at the library. Admittedly, it was the title that made her pick it up and she found a great story within. The "plot basics" section makes the story sound strange -- which it is -- but it also has some really tender moments. Moreover, this is sci-fi in the vein of "Brave New World" not space opera, and it was really plausible to see how our hyper-safety conscious world could turn into the manic safety drive New Seattle. This is a title is an early front-runner for Word Nerd "Best Books of 2009" list.
Bummer Points: So far, Tim Scott only has one other book out. Word Nerd was hoping for a really long back list because this is one of the freshest, quirkiest sci-fi books she's read in a long time.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Fans of Jasper Fforde or Douglas Adams should gravitate to Scott, who add a depth to his silliness.

05 February 2009

Last four chapters. Again.

Word Nerd is rereading her own book and marking it all over with purple pen after her beta readers provided their feedback.

First, it is important to note that the pages aren't bleeding as much as the last time through.

Second, it is important to note that in fixing things a second time, Word Nerd thinks these edits will be much harder. She took care of the easy things the first time. This time will require real sleeve-rolling-up, nose-to-the-grindstone attitude to get done.

Third, there is a chapter, or possibly two, that might get completely excised and rewritten to include more Danger! and Conflict! because they are seriously lacking in these areas and Word Nerd was close to bored by her own novel when reading them. This can never be a good sign.

But first, she must read the last four chapters. A note to all future readers -- when you get to the last four chapters of Word Nerd's book, make sure you have time to read them all at once. Her book is sort of like a roller coaster where somehow the engineers have figured out how to save the Really Big Hill for the very end. Everything comes hurtling down to the conclusion all at once.

Word Nerd, as a reader, sort of wishes she could skip at least three of them and just jump to the end. She could skip all the big emotions, all the stuff that happens to the characters in the last three chapters.

As a writer, Word Nerd takes her own reaction to this as a wonderful sign. This means, she thinks, the set-up works. The emotions are true. The plot holds together.

She hopes. Because she still has to reread these last four chapters. Again.

04 February 2009

January 2009 Bibliometer

The readings for the last month were:
9 books
2,177 pages
70 pages/day

The YTD totals are obviously the same.

02 February 2009

Book Banter -- Lord of Misrule

Title: Lord of Misrule (Morganville Vampires, bk, 5)

Author: Rachel Caine

Length: 247 pages

Genre: YA paranormal

Plot Basics: Claire Danvers and friends are up to their elbows in an all-out vampire war between Amelie, the Founder of Morganville and her father, Bishop, a particularly nasty vampire. Humans and vamps are taking sides and getting into position for this showdown. One the first night of fighting, Amelie disappears, leaving Claire and Co. to figure out how to deal with Bishop and avoid his traps on their own.

Banter Points: Caine's world of vampires is a good one... it's nice that the vamps are still the bad guys and the so-called good vamps could turn at any time.

Bummer Points: This book was sort of a set-up book for the next one. It wasn't until the last 50 pages that Word Nerd was eager to find out what happened. It was still a good book, but it didn't hit the caliber of the other Morganville books.

Word Nerd Recommendation: Fans of Twilight really should check this out and see how cool other vampires stories are.