26 July 2010

Book Banter -- Chimera

Title: Chimera
Author: Rob Thurman
Length: 331 pages
Genre: crime/sci-fi
Where Word Nerd's Copy Came From: Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library

Plot Basics: Stefan Korsak's younger brother, Lukas, was abducted when he was a kid and he has spent the rest of his life vowing to find his brother. He's got the contacts too to keep up an unofficial search for a missing person, since he joined the family business -- a bodyguard for a Russian mobster in south Florida. When a contact finally spots a teenage boy fitting Lukas' description, Stefan will stop at nothing to rescue his brother and keep him out of his captors' hands. Only the Lukas he finds is less than enthusiastic about getting rescued and possesses a deadly talent that will keep them on the run.

Banter Points: So, it's not Cal and Niko, or Trixa, but it's a Rob Thurman book, so thumbs-up right there. While the exploration of family dynamics felt a little familiar (a la Cal and Niko), this book was cool because it was different from Thurman's other stuff. Rather than an urban fantasy book, this is pretty much a straight-up mystery/thriller with just a dash of sci-fi twist. It's nice to see an author go a very different route with a story. Plus, Thurman writes great action sequences and the chases and escapes pulled off by Stefan read like an action movie.

Bummer Points: According to Thurman's website, there may only be one more book in the Chimera-verse, which is a bummer of a slightly different sort. As far as the story-telling went, there were a few places were the plot skipped forward and back that felt a little jerky, but once Word Nerd got used to the style, it was fine.

Word Nerd Recommendation: If you are expecting kick-butt urban fantasy, you aren't going to find it here. However, if you just like good story-telling, no matter the genre, then check it out.

19 July 2010

Book Banter -- Feed

Title: Feed
Author: Mira Grant
Length: 571 pages
Genre: sci-fi/horror
Where Word Nerd's Copy Came From: Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library

Plot Basics: In the not too distant future, humanity has cured the common cold and cancer, but in the process, unleashed a virus across the planet that makes the dead not stay dead and compels them to feed on the living to spread the virus more. Humanity becomes isolated, and it's up to the bloggers to bring out the truth in a way that traditionally journalists no longer can. Brother and sister team Georgia and Shaun Mason get the blogging assignment of a lifetime -- covering a presidential campaign from the inside, which no blogger has done before. But the campaign takes them straight into a conspiracy as they dig for the truth about the virus that's wreaked so much havoc across the planet.

Banter Points: Can we say, zombie-pocalypse? That's exactly why Word Nerd read this book. After vampires, zombies are the next big undead thing to hit the literary market and Word Nerd hadn't really jumped on that bandwagon until now. The great part of this book is the double-meaning title that carries through the plot -- zombies feeding on people and the constant feed of the bloggers to promote the truth. No doubt, it's the recovering reporter in Word Nerd that made her like that twist. It's zombies and reporters and presidential politics.

The other great part of this book is that Grant doesn't hold back. Word Nerd won't say more because of spoilers, but know this: Nobody is safe in this book. Nobody.

Bummer Points: It's a trilogy. The story isn't done. Occasionally, Grant leaps ahead in the narrative, filling things in with telling, rather than showing. But, it's forgiveable because her actions sequences are top-notch. And there might have been a few tears shed over a zombie-pocalypse novel.

Word Nerd Recommendation: Feed is a fun read. It's not too scary on the horror end of the spectrum and will keep you turning pages.

16 July 2010

Book Banter -- The Serialist

Word Nerd's again over at PopSyndicate, this time with a review of David Gordon's The Serialist.

Not to spoil the fun of reading the full review, but here's something to keep in mind: Word Nerd will put this book in her top 10 reads of the year.

15 July 2010

Book Banter -- Dragon Haven

Word Nerd's over at PopSyndicate today, with her review of Robin Hobb's Dragon Haven.

14 July 2010

Author Answers with Julie Wachowski

Give a hello to Julie Wachowski today as she tells us about her new book and the world of e-publishing as one of Carina Press's new authors!

WN: What's "In Plain View" about and where did you get the idea for this story?
WACHOWSKI: ‘What’s it about?’ is a tricky question!

I had friends and family over for a party recently and someone asked me, “So what’s your book about?”

My Dad was bartending that day, which means I was feeling a little relaxed and philosophical. “It’s about how we are fundamentally altered by what we see. It’s about being a witness to pain.”

My friend pursed his lips. “Uh-huh. If you don’t want to tell me, that’s cool.”

I laughed! I was trying to answer his question. “It’s about a news videographer who returns the Midwest to care for her niece. Her first story is investigating the death of a man dressed in Amish clothes hanging from a tree--with porn at his feet.”

“Wow. Sounds good.”

As a writer, a mystery lets you play with writing about process. Working in television gave me a lot of specific knowledge about a process that I thought people would be interested in—how television gets made. Of course, I was (mostly) a good-girl, cream-puff on the job. So I invented Maddy. She got to say all the things I was thinking.

The death at the beginning of In Plain View came from a true event. A friend of mine used to run a small town newspaper in Michigan. She sent a reporter to follow up on a police scanner call. A man in Amish clothes hanging from a tree with men’s magazines on the ground around him. I found the whole image so disturbing—I knew I had to write about it.

WN:What kind of reader will this book be appealing to?
WACHOWSKI: Well, the auto-erotic suicide kind of eliminates the Amish niche, I’m afraid. Readers who appreciate a little humor and a taste of social commentary in their mystery will appreciate In Plain View.
WN: In a blog post, you lay out your life in the mystery books you've read, from Trixie Belden on. What is it about mysteries that you like so much?
WACHOWSKI: I believe all genre fiction is about satisfying basic needs of the human brain--whether it’s curiosity, a sense of mastery, pure endorphin rush or the soothing patterns of genre. Story is how the brain organizes itself. Stories give the brain the food it needs to survive and thrive.

Mysteries provide sustenance for the need for stimulation, curiosity, problems to solve. They also satisfy our emotional need for justice. One of the first sentences a kid learns to say is: “That’s not fair!” When the universe is particularly unknowable and unfair, I believe a good mystery recharges your mind. It helps you pick up and carry on creating the just world we all want to live in.

WN: You're one of Carina Press' new totally e-book authors. Did this take getting used to, that your name wasn't going to be on a tangible book?
WACHOWSKI: I’ve had the great good fortune to make a lot of professional writing friends, many of whom started their careers a few years before me. They were able to take advantage of the 1980-90’s boom years when Barnes & Noble and Borders were everywhere and books were great business.

That model has changed, like it or not. I recently heard Sara Paretsky, author of the V.I. Warshawski mysteries, speak about this. When she started out, she said there were over forty mainstream publishers she could send a book to—now there are seven. I’ve heard industry experts predicting there will be four major publishers when the current market contraction finally stabilizes. It’s a whole new world.

I love to hold a book in my hand. But it’s pretty clear that how we read—whether it’s our newspapers or our fiction—is being altered by technology. 100 years ago, the post office stopped delivering twice a day because of the telephone. 2000 years ago, Plato grumped about how no one would bother to remember long saga poems if people wrote everything down on scrolls. The world turns. Things change. E-books are the future of the industry.

I was excited by the announcement of Carina Press. Carina is the first major publisher to go after the e-market. As an off-shoot of Harlequin, the biggest guerilla out there in the genre marketplace, they have some real advantages. Harlequin is ahead of the curve on e-books. They already have significant online marketing presence. These people are social media artists! And I’d met Malle Vallik, the woman in charge of Carina, at a writing conference. She struck me as really smart and right on target with her taste in story.

As a business person, submitting my book to Carina was my opportunity to join the next boom wave. Now, all I have to do is teach my parents how to download.

WN: What's the best book that's captured your attention so far this year?
WACHOWSKI: You do know that’s like trying to pick your favorite flower in the garden? I’m kind of a PIA about this kind of question. Hmmm…here goes:

Essays: A Very Bad Wizard, Tamlar Sommers
Personal: Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity, David Whyte
YA: The Underneath, Kathi Appelt
Mystery: Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson
Romance: The Forbidden Rose, Joanna Bourne

WN: What's next for you as a writer?
WACHOWSKI: I’m working on a re-write of a novel and a new screenplay right now. I wish there were 30 hours in a day!

07 July 2010

Book Banter -- Our Lady of Immaculate Deception

Title: Our Lady of Immaculate Deception

Author: Nancy Martin

Genre: mystery

Length: 310 pages

Where Word Nerd's Copy Came From: Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library

Plot Basics: Roxy Abruzzo is trying to make a living through architectural salvage -- so when the great Hyde family mansion goes up in flames, she'll take what's save-able to resell to others in Pittsburgh's upper crust. Even if that means some things end up in her truck that shouldn't. But when Hyde heir, Julius, ends up shot to death, Roxy is on the short list of suspects. She's got stolen property that's too hot to unload and she's got family drama coming out her ears -- both with her own teenage daughter and from the Hyde family trying to put their wealth back together.

Banter Points: Word Nerd was a fan of Martin's Blackbird Sisters mysteries, so seeing a new series was exciting. And the book is funny. Martin's got a great eye for the difference between people in economic brackets and how they will behave in the same situation.

Bummer Points: The book was funny, but Word Nerd can't say she really like Roxy Abruzzo. Roxy was just a little to harsh for her... too crass, too into men who aren't good for her, too much of a fixer for everyone's problems but her own. Maybe Martin will take her to the point of changing her life, but the stories likely wouldn't be funny then, so Word Nerd kind of doesn't see the story headed that way.

Word Nerd Recommendation: Roxy reminds Word Nerd somewhat of Stephanie Plum, though not quite so clumsy. Fans of Evanovich's light mysteries could very well find a new heroine to love in Roxy Abruzzo.

06 July 2010

June 2010 Bibliometer

Word Nerd did some number-crunching over her holiday weekend and came up with June Bibliometer readings.

June 2010:
6 books
2,501 pages
averge 83 pages/day

YTD 2010:
38 books
13,580 pages

02 July 2010

Happy Fourth of July

E-Book for a Good Cause

Word Nerd doesn't often pass on this type of story, but she thought this one was interesting. As e-books become part of the literary culture, author Paul Levine is using the e-book of release of one of his novels in a good way -- to give back.

Rather than Word Nerd summing it all up, Levine explains it himself.

Jake Lassiter and the Four Diamonds Fund, by Paul Levine

In the United States today, one in 300 children will be diagnosed with some form of cancer. All of us have friends or family members who have fought that grueling battle. These days, with great advances in medicine, there's a increasing chance the fight has been successful.

Yet, progress seems excruciatingly slow for those on the front lines.

A few years ago, one of my dearest friends, the godfather of my son, lost his daughter Margaux to Ewing's sarcoma, a rare but vicious bone cancer. The survival rate for Ewing's sarcoma that metastasises is a disheartening 10 per cent.

Ten per cent!

In this age of medical miracles, how can that be?

After Margaux's death at age 14, I dedicated a book to her. Such a feeble gesture. I wanted to do more. Still do. Here's how.

Twenty years ago this month, my first novel, “To Speak for the Dead,” was published to a decent amount of fanfare. The legal thriller introduced the world to Jake Lassiter, a linebacker-turned-lawyer who seeks justice but seldom finds it. The book facilitated my career change from lawyer to novelist and has always held a special place in my heart. Now, good old Jake can help a cause that's also dear to me.

I will donate all proceeds of “To Speak for the Dead” to the Four Diamonds Fund, a charity that pays for treatment of pediatric cancer patients at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital. In addition to providing world-class medical care, the Fund supports research in immunotherapy, carcinogenesis, and several other fields I can barely spell, much less understand.

In basic terms, the Fund helps sick kids. I don't know a more worthy cause.

I'm hoping that the e-book will sell for years, bringing enjoyment to readers and support to a life-saving cause. Hoping, too, that others will be moved to directly contribute.

Here's a little background about the Fund. In 1972, a 14-year-old boy named Christopher Millard was an aspiring writer. Or rather, he was already a writer. He'd penned a mythic tale about “Sir Millard and The Four Diamonds,” in the tradition of Sir Galahad and Sir Lancelot. What are those Four Diamonds? Wisdom. Courage. Honesty. Strength. All are needed in our daily lives, especially in children's battles with a dread disease.

You have probably figured out that Chris wrote the story while in the throes of cancer. The diamonds of his story were allegorical. The quest was for life itself. After a three-year battle, Chris died, but his memory lives in the name of the Fund established by his family.

Penn State students have contributed an astonishing $61 million to the Fund through their annual dance marathon. This year's event raised $7.8 million alone. The motto of “Thon” is “For the kids.” And that, too, is the dedication of “To Speak for the Dead.”

Even if you don't own an e-reader, you can download the book to your laptop or desktop. So, if you'd like a “breathlessly exciting” read (Cleveland Plain Dealer) or a “genuinely chilling” one (Washington Post), please give it a try. For a limited time, the book is only $2.99. Purchase information here:

One last thing. If each of us can contribute - just a bit - of courage, wisdom, honesty, and strength, maybe we can reach the goal of Conquering Childhood Cancer.
For more information on the Four Diamonds Fund, click here.

01 July 2010

Book Banter -- Naamah's Curse

Title: Naamah's Curse
Author: Jacqueline Carey
Length: 567 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Plot Basics: Moirin is miles from her Alban home in Ch'in, and missing the other half of her soul -- which is inside her peasant-boy lover, Bao. Desperate to be re-united to him, she sets off alone across the get Ch'in wildnerness and the northern Tatar steppes. The reunification is a lengthy process that pits Moirin and Bao against a zealous priest, determined to convert her, and then against a warlord and his army of assassins and an evil queen with an enchanted gem that bends mens' wills to her.

Banter Points: Word Nerd has mixed feelings about this book. She liked it, but there were parts where it seemed desperately slow. All of Carey's books are these grand sweeping epics and it's impossible for them to be all action, all the time because of that scale. The action sequences in this book were great and the thing that kept me reading was how Carey propelled things with Moirin's impatience to be reunited with Bao.

Bummer Points: That said, it was kind of slow. Moirin had to meet and talk to all kind of people in all these different locales. Word Nerd's hoping that book three in this series will be good, that two was kind of the boring middle bit.

Word Nerd Recommendation: The Naamah series, so far, just hasn't been as good to Word Nerd as the six books in the two Kushiel trilogies. That said, Carey creates a lush world that's fun to visit from time to time. It's likely worth sticking with the series to see what happens next.