31 October 2006

Book Banter -- The Picture of Dorian Gray

As promised, Word Nerd read Dorian Gray, since you all voted that it was the next classic she should read. If you've read it too, post your thoughts on the book as well. Word Nerd's interested in some other reactions.

Title: The Picture of Dorian Gray
Author: Oscar Wilde
Length: 210 pages
Genre: literature/classic fiction
Plot Basics: Dorian Gray, a young, up-and-comer in British society has his portrait done by painter Basil Hallward. Basil's friend, Lord Henry Wotton, insists on meeting Dorian. Henry praises Dorian greatly about his youthful good looks and sets Dorian on a self-destructive path. Only outwardly, it's not Dorian who shows the physical effects of his lifestyle, but the version of Dorian in the painting.
Banter Points: Well. Word Nerd thought she knew what happened in this book. She was partly right, but there was a lot more to it that she realized. She's a fan of the movie versions of Wilde's plays (Importance of Being Earnest and An Ideal Husband). He was quite the social critic as a writer and clearly well-read himself based on the allusions he makes to other texts.
Bummer Points: Word Nerd was expecting this story to be scarier. Again, Word Nerd thought she knew what was in this book. The philosophy about life and art wasn't really what she was expecting.
Word Nerd Recommendation: For a classic, it's nice and short. It would also probably make a nice foundation for an academic paper of some sort about changing attitudes and philosophies and art and life.

30 October 2006

Book Banter -- Foreigner

Title: Foreigner
Author: C.J. Cherryh
Length: 373 pages
Genre: sci-fi
Plot Basics: Generations have passed since the human space ship the Phoenix went terribly off course and colonists first landed on the world of the atevi. There is a fragile peace between humans and the atevi and one man, Bren Cameron, the paidhi, or interpreter for the two races is charged with keeping the balance. But when a rogue assassin's bullet rips through his apartment one night, Bren is whisked off -- presumably for his safety -- in to the atevi countryside. There he wrestles with what the cost is for peace between the two society and tries to unwind an ever-twisting pattern of betrayal.
Banter Points: Word Nerd first read this book when she was in high school, and remembered liking it. Since Cherryh is coming out with new books in this universe, Word Nerd decided to refresh her memory on what happens. It had been long enough since the first reading that Word Nerd felt like she was reading something new and thoroughly enjoyed this again. Cherryh does a great job of capturing the unease that Bren feels as he tries to interpret the atevi.
Bummer Points: Sometimes Cherryh gets a bit long in the descriptions or Bren's internal dialogue and it takes away from what could be faster-paced action.
Word Nerd Recommendation: This is great sci-fi. If you are a fan of the genre, this series should be a must-read.

27 October 2006

It's Friday and...

...Word Nerd's brain is tired.

So today's blog post is largely going to depend on you, yes, you, faithful readers.

Word Nerd recently read at least one blog post of people not believing parents when their kids asked for books for Christmas or birthday presents. Word Nerd always asked for books... and often still does.

What books -- new releases or otherwise -- are on your wish list for your library?

Word Nerd will start:
  • Truck: A Love Story, by Michael Perry. Word Nerd's read it, but it's very much worth having on her shelf.
  • Morning Star boxed set, by Nick Bantock. This is the second Griffin and Sabine Trilogy... since she's got the first set, the second one would be nice too.

26 October 2006

Quill Awards

Books and authors recently got their night on the red carpet with the 2006 Quill Awards.

Unlike other book awards, these are decided by readers, not critics or literary gurus.

The award ceremony was recently held and here's a run down of some of the winners:

Book of the Year:
Don't Make a Black Woman Take off Her Earrings: Medea's Unhibitied Commentaries on Life and Love, by Tyler Perry.

Audio Book:
Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog, by John Grogan

Children's Chapter Books/Middle Grade
The Penultimate Peril, by Lemony Snicket

Young Adult/Teen
Eldest, by Christopher Paolini
(An aside from Word Nerd... Markus Zusak's The Book Thief didn't win in this category. Clearly, the awards are rigged. ... kidding... )

General Fiction
Dirty Job, Christopher Moore

25 October 2006

Author Answers with L.A. Banks

This week's author is L.A. Banks, but you might also know her as Leslie Banks, or Leslie Eisdale Banks, or Leslie Eisdale. Banks writes across several genres, but is currently in the middle of the Vampire Huntress series.

For more about her, check out her website.

WN: You write under several pen-names… why?
BANKS: That was really a marketing decision because I began in romance--and people who read that genre want to know for certain when they purchase a book that there will be a happy ending, whereas, folks who read what I will call "the darker genres" know that anything goes. I wound up having to have multiple personnas! Romance = Leslie Esdaile. Crime/Suspense Thrillers = Leslie Esdaile Banks. Special Projects (like the Soul Food TV series books) = Leslie E. Banks -- which is a one-time-only name use just for that series. Anything Paranormal and oddly, also the Scarface series books) = L.A. Banks. It's a branding strategy, so that people know what they are getting when they pick up a certain name to go with a title.

WN: You have a background in marketing. What made you decide to become a writer and how has that background helped you?
BANKS: I fell into writing, literally, because my child was involved in a tragic daycare center accident whereby she was severely burned with an iron. The kid went through 17 surgeries and I was home, unemployed, and needed an income--something I could do from home. The sales rep in me knew that being an entrepreneur was feasible, I just needed a product. Novels became that after a short story contest in a magazine piqued my interest. It was a process becoming a full-fledged novelist, however. But the background of having strong marketing acumen meant the world. In today's market with all the competing entertainment choices, you cannot afford to sit back and hope to get noticed. I've heard staggering numbers like 60,000 new book titles come out annually. To that I say, you'd better get out there and hustle or get smothered by the sheer volume of choices people have!

WN: You are one of the authors in the paranormal fiction genre… Why did paranormal and vampire stories become so popular?
BANKS: I think people have always been titillated by the paranormal, the dark, the mysterious, the forbidden eroticism of the vampire... and the concept of immortality with a price, all of that creates a very seductive content. I'm not sure that the market is more interested as much as the entertainment industries (including publishing) have embraced the genre and put more choices out there for an already hungry market. If you look back, every time a good vamp flick came out it did well. The bad ones didn't. But people always gravitated toward the subject matter with almost "closet curiosity."

WN: If you got stranded on a desert island with one of your characters, who would it be and why?
BANKS: Carlos Rivera! Sometimes that guy makes me just shake my head, ha ha ha! Then, again, I could be really happy with Kamal, or Shabazz, or Big Mike--Rider, or Jose...Hey, what can I say? I like the men in the series--they all (to my wicked sensibilities) have a lil' somethin' somethin' to offer a girl :)

WN: What is the best/most influential book you have ever read and why did it inspire you?
BANKS: The autobiography of Frederick Douglass. My mother read this to me as a kid versus Grimms Fairy Tales. She basically wanted me to understand real horror at an early age, and to use that to propel my ambition to read--because as you know, in that era, it was illegal for folks like me to read. As a kid, I couldn't wrap my brain around the concept that you could be killed, maimed, tortured, blinded, all because you dared to read. That book also told of the indomitable human spirit to rise above whatever circumstances... talk about REAL heroes and heroines. That book made me hold my head up, put "the straight in my back" as my grandma would say, and every time I felt like complaining about what I couldn't do, all I had to do was think back and do a reality check. That book was the monster for me. Whew!

WN: What is your favorite word and why?
BANKS: Can. It has no limitations.

WN: What piece of advice helped you out the most as a writer?
BANKS: I was telling someone an idea once and they said, "Write it down. If it is not on paper, it doesn't exist." That was Gospel. You cannot believe how many people "tell" the most profound, wondrous stories in the oral tradition of many cultures--but because it isn't captured by a chronicler on paper, it doesn't exist... and it could very well be that person's NY Times Bestseller--had they written it. So, my advice is "writer on!" Do it every day, something, anything, just like an athlete exercises daily to stay fit. Write!

24 October 2006

NaNoWriMo -- 7 days and counting

National Novel Writing Month. Also known as November. It starts in 7 days.

Never heard of this? Here's the basic idea.

During NaNoWriMo people sign up to write a 50,000 word novel during the 30 days of November. The basic idea is to write quantity, not necessarily quality.

Some people do this every year. Seriously. Word Nerd has yet to participate in this event, but not for lack of thinking about it.

Here's the skinny. If you want sign up, go to NaNoWriMo website.

Also, if you're here in the Fox Valley region of Wisconsin, there's going to be a kick-off party for local NaNo crazies (er, participants) at 7 p.m. on OCt. 28 at the Barnes and Noble in Appleton.

Maybe Word Nerd will be there. Maybe.

23 October 2006

A book for the more ambitious reader

If you pay attention to Word Nerd's "Currently Reading" post, you might have noticed that for a week or so, Mark Z. Danielewski's Only Revolutions was listed. Then it vanished and with no subsequent Book Banter post.

Word Nerd is admitting something she doesn't do often: She gave up on the book. Cuz frankly, she was lost.

When Word Nerd saw that Danielewski had a new novel out, she was excited because she enjoyed his breakout debut novel, House of Leaves, with it's very creepy story, four layers of plot and the word house (just like that in blue type, everytime).

She knew his new book, Only Revolutions, would be strange. After 50 pages (or maybe it's 100) Word Nerd was completely lost.

The Washington Post Book World has a review of Danielewski's new offering. It's a pretty good explanation of how the book is laid out and some of the plot.

The book has its own website, too. Have earphones if you're in a public place.
If anybody else has taken this book for a spin, Word Nerd's interested in the reaction.

20 October 2006

Ready or Not

*Deep breath*
Ok. The first four chapters of Word Nerd's novel are going to be put in the hands of Oshkosh Area Writers Club members tomorrow morning. They will then have two weeks to douse the pages in red (or some other colored ink).

Word Nerd's excited about having some readers. She's also just a tad bit nervous. Tad here means, she wonders what kind of faked illness the rest of writers club would believe she has so she doesn't have to go.

After discovering that her deadline for these chapters going for a critique was sooner rather than later, Word Nerd spent a good deal of time over the weekend working on polishing them. But not as much as she'd liked to have.

So, ready or not, the pages are going out tomorrow.

19 October 2006

Book Banter -- Windflower

Title: Windflower
Author: Nick Bantock (with Edoardo Ponti)
Length: 215 pages
Genre: literary/illustrated fiction
Plot Basics: Ana, a young Capolan dancer, leaves her tribe to go to the city Sedona to find a man named Felix who can teach her the dance that can save her people. While she's there, she finds herself keeping the company of four, very different men from the fatherly Mr. Hattaman to the rakish Boreos. When they start making claims on her affections, Ana discovers what she came to Sedona to learn.
Banter Points: This is a Nick Bantock book. Because it is, that extends a lot of grace to the story because Word Nerd's been so captivated by his books in the past.
Bummer Points: The story needs a lot of grace because though it's a Nick Bantock book, it just doesn't ring like the others. Word Nerd was expecting a book with more art to propel the story along and more pull on the reader. (If you've read the Griffin and Sabine books, you'll understand.). Those things just weren't there. The chapters flipped between first person and third person and Word Nerd just didn't think that really added much to the telling of the story -- a consistent POV may have been better. Moreover, some things in the plot were just kind of glossed over about who the Capolan were and what the structure of this world was where all this whole story was taking place.
Word Nerd recommendation: Since the book is fairly short, if you're a Bantock fan, Word Nerd says read it. If you've never heard of Bantock, do yourself a favor and go start with the exquisite Griffin and Sabine trilogy and then maybe read this one.

18 October 2006

Author Answers with Michael Perry

Heads up Midwesterners, this week's author -- Michael Perry -- is one of us. Perry is from New Auburn Wisc., and his first book, Population 485 got lots of regional accolades for capturing the characters and voice of the Midwest (and particularly, northern Wisconsin.).

Perry newest book, Truck: A Love Story hit shelves yesterday.

For more about Perry and to see a his itinerary on book tour, go to his website. If he's coming to your corner of the world, take the time to go see him.

WN: What's your writing process like from when you first start writing things down to getting a finished book?
PERRY: Organic, to put it politely. I start jotting notes and fragments and throw them all into one big file. These can be three-word scribbles from a gum wrapper or an 800-word brain dump. Then I print them all out and try to sort them by some sort of topical means. For instance I draw little triangles beside everything having to do with trucks, circles by everything having to do with gardening, squiggles beside everything tied to existentialism, and so on. Then I cut and paste so all the triangles, circles, squiggles, etc., are clustered. Then I begin to write what I call "chunks," which is a rare literary term. Then I print the chunks out, over and over, cutting them apart with scissors and moving them around on the floor like a giant sad game of solitaire. Eventually the chunks enlarge and cohere, and I start finding chapters. Once I have chapters, then I get to revise and polish, which is actually my favorite part of the process. I love to polish and polish. My editor finally demands that I turn it all in. In short, my writing process is unpretty and more like grunting than singing.

WN: "Truck" ranges from seed catalogs and trucks to chicken dinners, the staff of NPR to politics and dating... how do all these disparate topics work together in one book?
PERRY: Well, I am forever running off on tangents. I simply can't keep my head straight. It's like Rain Man in there, without the aptitude for math. So I sometimes see threads that may or may not exist, but I weave obliviously along. Then you lie awake in the dark and hope it will make sense.

WN: "Truck" seems more personal than "Population: 485"... was that harder for you to write, revealing more of your own thoughts/feelings/etc?
PERRY: When it is late and deadlines are nigh, you tend to go for what's available. To choose one specific example, if a guy is losing his hair, he might as well write about losing his hair. I write that stuff after extreme sleep deprivation and much coffee, and then when I see it printed up, I get sweaty and wonder what I was thinking. The questions you are always asking yourself are A) will anyone care, and B) will anyone relate? Frankly, you never know until it's all beyond retraction or repair.

WN: There are obviously lots of real people in your books... how do they react to how you portray them in print?
PERRY: Actually, I get more grief from the people I DON'T include! It is my pet theory that fiction writers face much greater difficulty in this respect...my characters (apart from a superficial name change) are clearly identifiable, whereas every novelist who ever created a nasty mother gets that tearful phone call from Mom, and no matter how much the novelist protests, Mom never does believe that the nasty heartless harridan wasn't based on her.

WN: What is the best/most influential book you have ever read and why did it inspire you?
PERRY: To answer with a question, what is the best breath you've ever taken? Good, bad or sublime, they all add up to now, and leave you hungry for the next one. I should stitch that on a sampler.

WN: What is your favorite word and why?
PERRY: I've always loved the word "evanescent". It is a word that is beautiful on the page and on the eye. It comes off the tongue like a poem. Finally, I take it as a constant reminder that everything is a puff of breeze and so enough with the furrowed brow.

WN: What piece of advice helped you out the most as a writer?
PERRY: My Dad taught me to clean calf pens one shovelful (forkful, actually, but we quibble) at a time. Until you have this big pile of product. This remains my guiding principle.

WN: What's next for you as a writer? Is a new book in process yet?
PERRY: Inspired by the arrival of yet another form letter announcing an increase in my health insurance premiums, I continue to freelance whenever and wherever possible. Currently working on pieces for Men's Health, No Depression, Backpacker, and a couple of anthologies. And I have just started the next book, which is a memoir about growing up on a small dairy farm in northern Wisconsin as a member of an obscure fundamentalist Christian sect. I expect that one may generate some letters. But above all, I am a deeply grateful guy, as I never even entertained the idea of writer until I was well down other paths, and I love what I do. As I have said before, I feel like a guy that got on the wrong bus, but it's a very cool bus and I like where it has taken me.

17 October 2006

Influence of the Fictional

Forget the 100 best photographs of the century. Or top 10 lists of all kinds.

A new list is out -- the 100 most influential people who never lived.

USAToday has a short story about the folks who put the list together here.

You can also view the entire ranking here.

The top spot? Don't get your hopes up... it's the Marlboro Man. In Word Nerd's mind, there's something wrong when a character like that gets a billing 84 spots above, oh, you know, a hero-type, like Luke Skywalker (the Jedi ranks at 85.) Word Nerd doesn't know who she'd put in the top spot, but she has a hunch it'd be somebody, well, less smoky.

King Arthur comes in at number 3, which makes Word Nerd very happy. That one could also be open to some level of debate about whether he's really fictional because of speculation about if there was ever a war leader/tribal chief/guy named Arthur in Britain who did something cool at some point in history.

Others in the list:
Sherlock Holmes, number 8
Don Quixote, number 17
Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock, number 50
Kermit the frog, number 67
The Great Gatsby, number 93

16 October 2006

Book Banter -- Firestorm

Title: Firestorm (Weather Warden, bk. 5)
Author: Rachel Caine
Length: 292 pages
Genre: Paranormal chick-lit
Plot Basics: SPOILER ALERT (There's no way around this since it's bk. 5 in a series.)

Weather warden Joanne Baldwin is still trying to save the world, but this time without the help of the djinn. The djinn are being taken over by Mother Earth, who's waking up and waking up cranky about what humans have been doing to the planet. Weather systems all over are unstable and the djinn have turned on the Wardens leaving few people left who can do anything about it. Joanne is humanity's only hope ... if she can get to one of the Oracles. But getting there has a high, high price.
Banter Points: Yeah, this series is just fun. And again, Caine leaves readers with a humdinger of a cliff-hanger. There's some interesting character development for Joanne as she wrestles with her feeling of responsibility (real or otherwise) for what's going on in the story.
Bummer Points: Not the best book of the bunch, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Word Nerd recommendation: This series won't win any kind of Pulitzer prize for fiction, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't read them. They are punchy chick lit and it's nice to see a paranormal bent to a plot that doesn't involve vampires or magic-users.

13 October 2006

Word Nerd's Deadline is When?!?

Word Nerd remembered this morning that she signed up for an upcoming Author Spotlight section with the Oshkosh Area Writers Club and thought she'd better just double-check the date on that.

Yeah. Good thing. It's two-weeks earlier than she was remembering.

A bit of explanation.

The Oshkosh Area Writers Club is a local writers critique group that meets the first and third Saturdays of the month at 10 a.m.- noon in the Oshkosh Public Library. Because many in the group are working on what they hope will be novels, the second hour of the meeting has been dubbed "Author Spotlight." For this session, at the previous meeting, the author to be spotlighted passes out a 40-50 page chunk of their work. The rest of those in the group take it and read it and write comments all over it in the ensuing two weeks and then talk about it at the next meeting.

So. Word Nerd's on the hot-seat on Nov. 4, but that means she's got to pass out her section at the Oct. 21 meeting. As, next weekend.

And that means she's got to get working to get the first three chapters or so of her novel ready for other people to read. Granted, going to Author Spotlight is supposed to be a time for critique, meaning the section doesn't have to be perfect, but Word Nerd doesn't want top just bring a section that she hasn't revised at least once already.

Why not? Because it's scary. Make no mistake. Critiquing in writing is hard, particularly when it's your piece that everybody else is reading. After slaving away to write it, you as a writer are turning over something that you created for other people to have a red-pen-heydey with.

In Word Nerd's case, this is all coming a little sooner than she thought.

12 October 2006

Creepy Reads

If you haven't noticed, the calendar really still says October (though if you live here in WI, you're likely thinking somehow we jumped ahead to early December, given the way the temperature plummeted in the last day).

October means Halloween and Halloween tends to mean creepy stories.

It's only fair then to talk about some spooky books and what better way to lead that off than by mentioning Neil Gaiman.

Gaiman's got a new book out, Fragile Things, that's a collection of short stories. Since it's Gaiman, be prepared for the creepy or the weird or the obscure. For more on the book, click here for the USAToday story about it.

Word Nerd's not a huge fan of horror, but here are some other reads that Word Nerd has found a bit creepifying in the past.
-- Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson
-- The Green Mile, Stephen King
-- Threshold, Caitlin R. Kiernan
-- House of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski
-- Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman
-- Pale Immortal, Anne Frasier
-- Various short stories by H.P. Lovecraft

Anybody else? What are some of your favorite scary books and why?

11 October 2006

Author Answers with Charles de Lint

This week’s featured author is one of the pioneers of urban fantasy, Charles de Lint.
In his books (and there are many) de Lint frequently places fantasy elements in city settings and has done such things as update the Jack the Giant Killer fairy tale to take place in Ottawa.
His latest book is "Widdershins," one in his long-running Newford series.

For more on de Lint, check out his website.

WN: What's your writing process like from when you first had an idea to getting the novel published?

DE LINT: That's perhaps a more complicated question that you might realize you're asking. For one thing there is no one set answer because each book and story has a different history, from start to finish. The constant is that I work on my writing every day. No matter what else is going on, time is set aside at some point during the day to work on whatever my ongoing project might be. As for the rest...

The creative process is as much being a sponge as it is creating. Everything I experience and imagine goes into the mix, and when I get an idea, or a piece of dialogue, or a character comes visiting...if it doesn't fit into the current project, I write it down and stash it away. So...sometimes the concept for the next project appears full-blown and it's just a matter of doing whatever research is necessary and then sitting down to write it. Other times elements are more nebulous and then I'll go through all those odd bits and pieces of story and character sketches to see which, if any, might jump start the new project.

I don't write with an outline or a specific end in mind. I know the feeling I want to leave with my readers, but not the details of how we'll all get there. So every day it's a matter of my sitting down and discovering the story myself. It's like reading a book, only much slower. It's only when I get to the end that the real hard work begins. That's when I take the rough shape and turn it into something publishable.

WN: You continue to return to characters in the Newford series ... what's intriguing to you as an author about them that makes them still compelling to write about?

DELINT: My characters are like friends, so I suppose it's a matter of while it's always nice to make new friends, you don't want to abandon your old ones. The last few novels (The Onion Girl, Spirits in the Wires, and Widdershins) have focused pretty much on the core cast of the Newford stories, but they're the exceptions, rather than the rule. I much prefer to keep those characters in the background and focus on the stories of new ones. This way I get to keep up on the gossip of what's happening in the lives of the old characters, but still explore new territories of character.

WN: You use a lot of music in your books, how do songs/music influence your writing?

DELINT: I think whenever you exercise your creative muscles, you gain new insights into all the various mediums in which you might work. I play and write a lot of music. I also do some painting, and learn songs and tunes written by other people. How this impacts my writing, I can't exactly say, but I do know that it makes a difference. Visual art helps me see details and connections I might not have noticed otherwise. Music certainly invests my prose with rhythms suitable to the tempo of what's happening in the story.

WN: You are sometimes called one of the pioneers of urban fantasy ... how do you make sure that the mythological or fantastical elements of your stories make sense and are believable in urban settings?

DELINT: Thank you for thinking that the fantasy elements make sense and are believable in contemporary settings. As to the mechanics of that, the first thing is to make sure that the real world, contemporary setting is as realistically depicted as possible--and that includes the characters. Then, when you begin to slip in the magic, it's a matter of making sure that the reactions are believable. I tend to write my characters from inside their heads--inhabiting them like actors immersing themselves in their roles while the cameras are running. One of my main reasons for using fantasy elements in what are often really just mainstream stories is that I'm fascinated by how the revelations of other beings or other worlds will affect and change a character. Of course, it's also just plain fun to have, oh say, a herd of buffalo men running down a busy city street.

WN: What is the best/most influential book you have ever read and why did it inspire you?

DELINT: That's a tough question. My favourite book remains The Wind in the Willows, but the most influential? I can't pinpoint one specific book. If pressed, I suppose it would be the poetry of Robin Williamson which spans numerous poetry collections and music albums.

WN: What is your favorite word and why?

DELINT: Us--because it's inclusive and alludes to how we're all connected.

WN: If you got stuck on a desert island with one of your characters, who would you want to be stranded with and why?

DELINT: It would have to be Jilly Coppercorn because she'd certainly keep me amused with her conversations, and she's made it her life work to see the best in any situation.

WN: What piece of advice helped you out the most as a writer?

DELINT: Finish what you start.

10 October 2006

Book Banter -- Truck: A Love Story

Title: Truck: A Love Story (ARC)*
Author: Michael Perry
Length: 288 pages
Genre: non-fiction/memoir
Plot Basics: (Hmm.... Word Nerd is seeing a bit of a problem with using her normal template prompts for a non-fiction book...maybe she could call this Synopsis: instead, given the genre.) Perry, author of Population: 485, brings readers back to the northern Wisconsin town on New Auburn. This time, much of the story revolves around his work to restore an old truck. But along the way, readers get to see meet more quirky characters like those that populated the first book. Like with the first book, Perry infuses the story about the truck with observations about life, love, politics, getting older and some laugh-aloud-darn-funny moments.
Banter Points: First, Word Nerd is just impressed with the writing. It's so good. SO GOOD. Wow. Second, the fact that she picked up, read and enjoyed a book where major sections were devoted to repairing a truck is a testament to the book because Word Nerd knows nothing about vehicles or vehicle parts and yet it was all still interesting. Third, the part with the NPR newscasters -- let's just say at that part of the book, the person sitting next to Word Nerd on that flight to Detroit probably wanted to switch seats because she was laughing outloud.
Bummer Points: Toward the end, there's a chapter that gets a little bogged down in politics. It's not bad, mind you, but it didn't have the ring of the rest of the book.
Word Nerd recommendation: Perry's books are a keeper. If you've never heard of Population 485, read it and then go find Truck when it releases later this month. Also, these books are great 'splainer books for anyone who wants to understand the colloquialisms of Wisconsin.
BONUS: Perry has agreed to do an Author Answers interview, stay tuned.

* Advanced Reader Copy

09 October 2006

Book Banter -- Some Like it Lethal

Title: Some Like it Lethal
Author: Nancy Martin
Length: 310 pages
Genre: mystery/chick lit
Plot Basics: Nora Blackbird is again caught up in a murder investigation, but this time the prime suspect is her younger sister Emma. At the annual fall hunt breakfast, Nora finds her sister passed out in a horse stall, a bloody riding crop nearby and the dead body of Rush Strawcutter, a notable Philadelphian. Detective Ben Bloom targets Emma as the killer and thinks that somehow Nora is connected to her on-again-off-again boyfriend Michael Abruzzo's possible money laundering. But someone starts blackmailing Nora and others in society and the stakes get higher for them all...
Banter Points: Martin does a great job with these characters and introduces some particularly over-the-top folks for this book that work out really well. Also, finally, there's more progression in the Nora/Michael relationship.
Bummer Points: For a murder mystery, the resolution on this one is not as cut-and-dry as many.
Word Nerd recommendation: Quality series. Very entertaining. Word Nerd will keep reading them (must go find book 4) and then wait for the release of more.

03 October 2006

Author Answers with Mitch Albom

This week's Wednesday-with-an-author is the author of "Tuesdays with Morrie," Mitch Albom.

Albom is a columnist for the Detroit Free Press as well the author of the non-fiction "Tuesdays with Morrie" and the novel, "Five People you Meet in Heaven." His latest novel "For One More Day" was recently released.

Oshkosh readers take note: Albom will be here in town on Tuesday, Oct 11 for a reading and signing at 11:30 a.m. at the Park Plaza Hotel. Tickets are required for the event. Tickets are $25 and include a copy of the new book which Albom will sign at the event. Tickets are still available by either calling or visiting Apple Blossom Books, 513 N. Main St, 230-3395.

For more on Albom, you can visit his website.

WN: How did you come up with the idea for “For One More Day?”
ALBOM: Most of it was born from readers of the last book. A lot of them came up to me and said to me, “I love that book.” What I wouldn’t give for one more day with such-and-such. A lot of time I noticed it was with a parent. A lot of time we have all this baggage with our parents.
I had a good relationship with my mother… there’s going to be a time when she’s not around. What would that really be like if you had that day, how would you spend it what would you talk about.

WN: What’s different about your writing process for writing your columns and writing a novel?
ALBOM: For one thing you don’t have to make it fit in the space.
To be honest, I look at it all the same. I really only have one ability or skill… that’s being a storyteller. I’m really lousy at everything else. I come from a family of loud storytelling relatives. There’d be 50 of us around the table at Thanksgiving and if you couldn’t hold the floor, you had to give it up.
I learned how to keep things moving and telling a story.
I always try to approach it the same way. I didn’t make it like a text book. I try to concentrate on what’s the same about them. You want to keep an audience’s attention and make them think without realizing it. The nice thing about writing a novel is if you want to give somebody a brother you can.

WN: Have you ever been to Oshkosh before?

ALBOM: I have been to Oshkosh before—a friend of mine and I drove across country. Came to Oshkosh WI and I still have in my drawer a t-shirt that says 'where in the heck is Oshkosh WI?' It’s a tan t-shirt… I thought it was a cool name. We had a piece of pie in some diner. This is like the best pie we’ve ever had. We were so proud we were in Oshkosh WI. I thought that was like really America. The pie was good.

WN: You’re on quite the tour for this new book… what’s the best and worst parts of being on tour?
ALBOM: There’s nothing bad about it except sleep. I’ll never be one of those authors that complains about book tour. It’s an honor when people ask you to come someplace. People want you to come in places you don’t live. It’s one thing to talk in Detroit… but some place like Oshkosh or Japan… that’s a great honor. I get a lot of good ideas from my readers. Sitting in the basement writing by yourself is a very lonely profession. To come out and see how your writing affects them… these are the kinds of lines that move people. I think it’s great. The only part is you don’t sleep a lot and do a lot of sleeping in sitting positions in the car or on a plane.

WN: "Five People You Meet in Heaven" has been used for One Book/One City programs and now Starbucks is encouraging the same sort of thing for “For One More Day” … do you think it’s important for communities to engage with books (yours or anybody else’s) in this way and why?
ALBOM: Any book. Mine or anybody else’s. I think anybody who writes worries that the next generation won’t be reading, they’ll be watching everything. The art of reading or sitting with a book is going to die. Anything, One Book/One City… Starbucks… they chose my book… whether it’s my book or any other [that's] better that than video-gaming or text-messaging. I’d rather see 10 people with a book than tapping on their text messages. All those kinds of things are critical.

WN: What’s the best/favorite book you’ve ever read? Why?
ALBOM: I’ve read so many great books as an adult that they blur together.
[As a kid] I read a book called the “”Royal Road to Romance” written by Richard Halliburton who took off around the world and wrote about his adventures.
As a kid who’d never really been anywhere, I found that book and just cherished it. I think it was an important book for me is because it made me think about a world larger than my own an dit made me dream. It took me places I would never go. That’s the core of all good reading and all good stories.
While I’m sure there are better written ones… that one stands out because it was my first hook into the joy of reading.

WN: Best piece of advice you were given as a writer? Why helpful?
ALBOM: When I was just starting out as a journalist [I was assigned] a story on a photographer… went to his studio and I asked him the same question. What was the best advice? He said, when I was young, I thought I was a hotshot photographer and [I took all these pictures and] sent them off to the biggest photographer in the world. The guy sent him back a note that said You've mastered the basics of photography now surround yourself with the best music, art, dance, theatre and books and all the rest will take care of itself. I learned that's one of the ways you become a good writer is to appreciate the other arts. Read other great books… let it soak you in it. Somehow, you manage to pick up things.
It’s true – if you surround yourself with that, you get better.

WN:What’s it like to play with the “Rock Bottom Remainders?” (An aside from WN: ... the Rock Bottom Remainders is a music group featuring Stephen King, Amy Tan, Scott Turow, Dave Barry and other writers).
ALBOM: [I've been their] Piano player, singer. We’re all good friends at this point. We’re not very good musicians but we’re punctual. How many rock bands can you say that about.
As long as we’re entertaining, I think we distract people from the fact [that we're not very good].
If you know more than three chords, you can’t get in the band. If you exceed the maximum, you can be in the audience and can’t be in the band. Raised over $1 million for literacy.
It’s a good cause. For one week a year we get to feel like rock stars.

WN: What's next for your writing? Have you started on your next book?

ALBOM: I think you start the next book right after you finish the last one. Start thinking… haven’t started writing. Maybe somebody in Oshkosh will give me an idea I hadn’t thought of. I have one non-fiction book about faith that’s on my horizon. Other that, I’ll return to another novel as soon as I get back to my basement.

Book Banter -- The Book Thief

Title: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Length: 550 pages
Genre: juvenile/historical fiction
Plot Basics: An unexpected narrator tells the story of Liesel Meminger. Liesel is sent to foster parents outside of Munich just before World War II begins. Her new life is tough, but she finds a secret pleasure in stealing books and the struggle to learn how to read them. She establishes a precious relationship with her accordion-playing foster father and with the young Jewish man they decide to hide in their basement.
Banter Points: The narrator (Word Nerd doesn't want to give it away... even though the book jacket does) is the most amazing voice to tell this story. Word Nerd supposes that Zusak could have picked a different POV, but had he done that, the story would not have had the emotional punch it did.

Zusak, Word Nerd thinks, is one of the rising-est new authors out there. His two latest books (Book Thief and I Am the Messenger) both have been nominated for and are winning awards. His writing is fresh and snappy and he doesn't shy away from his books having a meaning to them.
Bummer Points: Because this book is labeled as a kid's book, a lot of adults are sadly going to probably walk right past it.
Word Nerd recommendation: Don't be put off by the length , it doesn't feel like 550 pages while reading it because the story keeps moving along. Don't be put off that this book is shelved in the juvenile section either. It's a great book for anybody... and if you've got kids of the 8-13 range or so, read it to them (or with them) and talk about this history that happened in World War II. Oh, and have a box of Kleenex handy at the end.

02 October 2006

September Bibliometer

Word Nerd can't believe the month of September is over and it's time to do another bibliometer reading, but apparently it is.

For September, the statistics are:
8 books for a total of 2221 pages, which is an average of 74 pages/day.

The YTD total is 25908 pages, which is an average of 94 pages/day. Word Nerd forgot to count the total number of books read this year. She has a hunch though its going to be more than the last few years have been.

01 October 2006

The Next Classic

Thanks to those of you that voted in Word Nerd's "What Classic to Read Next" poll.

Results are in and the winner is:
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.

Dorian Gray got 36% of the vote, trailed by Lord of the Flies, which received 25% and Foundation, which got 22%.

Word Nerd is a little bit sad that nobody voted for Graham Greene's Our Man in Havana. Greene has been one of Word Nerd's favorite writers ever since she was forced to read his Brighton Rock in a college lit class. She will likely, though, pick up his books without the prompting of a poll.

So -- just to keep everything on the up-and-up, Word Nerd will report on Dorian Gray on Halloween. Like with The Count of Monte Cristo, she'll welcome comments that day from others who have read Dorian Gray.