29 May 2008

Book Banter -- Book of a Thousand Days

Title: Book of a Thousand Days
Author: Shannon Hale
Length: ~220 pages
Genre: YA fiction
Plot Basics: Dashti becomes a lady's maid to Lady Saren, right before Saren is imprisoned in a tower by her father. Saren's father's plan is to imprison her in a tower for seven years as punishment for Saren refusing a rising war lord as her suitor. Dashti and Saren begin their imprisonment hopefully for the tower is stocked with food and built over a well. But as the days stretch on, the food goes too fast, Saren drops farther and farther into an unreachable melancholy and Dashti must figure out how to keep them both alive.
Banter Points: Word Nerd is so glad she stumbled on to this title. Walking around the YA section at her library, she spotted this book on the shelf and thought it looked intriguing and was it ever. Hale's resetting of this little-known Brothers Grimm tale into the steppes of Mongolia is a surprising but clever choice. Her language is picturesque and poetic in creating a fabulous story.
Bummer Points: Word Nerd can't really find one here, other than perhaps the fact that this book didn't get an award.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Get to the library or bookstore and read this one. For any parent wanting to give their teenage daughter a book that's not of the "Gossip Girl" variety, check this one out.

21 May 2008

Book Banter -- The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao

Title: The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao
Author: Junot Diaz
Length: 459 pages (large-type version)
Genre: literary fiction
Plot Basics: Oscar Wao is a overweight sci-fi/fantasy nerd. The problem is, culturally, as a man from the Dominican Republic, he's expected to be very smooth with the ladies. Rather, Oscar is terrible, falling ridiculously in love with girls he cannot have. Oscar's failure with girls may be the result of a long family curse and it impacts all those around him.
Banter Points: Word Nerd read this book as her May title for her book club. It's not a title that she likely would have picked up, but she's really glad the club picked it. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2008 and it's clear why. Diaz presents a great story in a unique voice. Also, Word Nerd enjoyed the story because of all the sci-fi references. Though Diaz pokes fun at genre fiction, he clearly knows it because the references are spot-on from Lord of the Rings to Robotech to The Matrix.
Bummer Points: Word Nerd wished she knew just a tad more Spanish. Diaz flips in and out of Spanish throughout the book and while she could decipher it many times, there were plenty of others when she had no clue.
Word Nerd Recommendation: This book is very worth the read. Tragically comedic and historically informative, Oscar Wao is a character that many people should get to know.

16 May 2008

One, Singular New Chapter

Word Nerd is finally finally done drafting the new chapter for her novel. The new Chapter Nine. This new chapter took far, far, far too long to write. There was the false start. And then there was the putting it off because she was reading Stephenie Meyer's "The Host." Done with that, Word Nerd thought last night it was high time to buckle down and finish this chapter.

Here's what she learned:

First. It's kind of tricky to get back into the rhythm of the characters and write full tilt. When doing the original draft, all the main characters -- Sedine, Taorin, Preben, Lefra, etc. -- were very alive in her head and so writing them was no big deal. Now, in the editing phase, their actual voices are quieter so that Word Nerd's internal editor can speak more freely. Adding in the chapter meant muting the editor and returning the characters to the forefront.

Second. The novel is better for having this chapter. Shocker. The gap between the original chs. 8 and 9 was too big, too much skipped information. Now, the original ch. 8 and now-chapter 10 hang together much better.

Third. The BIC writing plan works. (This being the butt-in-chair plan). This chapter took too long because Word Nerd wasn't making herself sit there and just write it. Ditto for the editing.

Fourth. The first revisions won't be done by the end of May. Now, sometime in June is the target date for the first pass through. Slower than hoped for, but not too bad. Given also that most TV shows end for the season next week, Word Nerd can't blame Bones or House or (ahem) American Idol for why she's not making progress.

Fifth. Word Nerd can't wait for her newly launched critique group to get underway because she needs some outside perspectives.

15 May 2008

Book Banter -- The Winter Rose

Title: The Winter Rose
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Length: ~700 pages
Genre: historical fiction
Plot Basics: India Selwyn Jones seems to be getting everything she wants -- graduating from medical school, getting a posting with a well-known London doctor and marrying an up-and-coming member of Parliament. But as India starts to practice medicine, she discovers that doctors could be doing much more to help the very poor of London's East End. The truth about the East End comes to light particularly when she treats the legendary criminal Sid Malone and sees his concern for the people. As the Labour movement sweeps through London as to cries to end crime, India and Sid are swept up in a series of events that brings them together and tears them apart, spanning years and three continents.
Banter Points: Donnelly again creates a sweeping historical epic with richly devised characters and a good plot. Sid Malone is an interesting character (particularly given his history revealed in "The Tea Rose) and it's nice to see a character struggle to grow as he did.
Bummer Points: In the last third of the book, Donnelly reintroduces the character of Seamie Finnegan and suddenly Seamie's got his own subplot. She puts him there to help Sid later but the whole story line feels a bit deus ex machina so that she can use Seamie later to advance the main plot.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Word Nerd has liked these first two books and will keep her eyes open in the future for more from Donnelly.

14 May 2008

Book Banter -- The Host

Title: The Host
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Length: 619 pages
Genre: sci-fi
Plot Basics: Sometime in the future, humans on earth become the host bodies for a race of sentient aliens. Most of the planet has been subdued, but there are a few remaining humans. Melanie Stryder is one of those... until she is captured and implanted with an alien "soul" named Wanderer. Most of the time, the souls take over the human so the human body cannot think, but Melanie is a fighter. And so Wanderer and Melanie inhabit the same body, Melanie's desires to be reunited to her brother Jamie and Jared, the man who was helping keep them safe, compelling some of Wanderer's actions and leading to discoveries that could start to change the planet.
Banter Points: Meyer proves she not just a one-series wonder with "The Host." Infused with the same rich level of emotion that her Twilight series is, the Host (like the alien soul) gets under your skin. Both provoking and moving, Meyer's twist on an "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" plot gives readers classic sci-fi (putting an ordinary person in an extraordinary circumstance) with an emotional tug.
Bummer Points: SPOILER (jump to the recommendation if you don't want to ruin anything)

The Melanie-Jared-Ian triangle seemed more than a little reminiscent of the Bella-Edward-Jacob triangle, particularly in view of how the two men respond differently to the heroine.

Word Nerd Recommendation: Read this one. The hype about Stephenie Meyer is well-deserved and this is an interesting and less sci-fi-techy look at what it means to be human.

12 May 2008

Book Banter -- Chuck Dugan is AWOL

Title: Chuck Dugan is AWOL
Author: Eric Chase Anderson
Length: 223 pages
Genre: adventure fiction
Plot Basics: Midshipman Chuck Dugan goes AWOL to try to stop his mother's remarriage to a shady character known only as "The Admiral."
Banter Points: The high point of this book is all of Anderson's drawings. Every chapter has a map of where the action occurs and throughout each chapter, smaller drawings are sprinkled as well. The maps definitely help give the action the right visuals because Anderson doesn't use a lot of description.
Bummer Points: The plot is pretty weak and Word Nerd felt like there was some information that should have been presented much earlier in the story than when it was revealed (like, oh, say that the story happens in the 1940/50s...explains WHY there's still a sailing German U-boat.)
Word Nerd Recommendation: Word Nerd borrowed this book from a friend. It's fun for a quick read, but if you are looking for substance and plot with pictures, this isn't the illustrated novel you're looking for.

09 May 2008

Book Banter -- Kushiel's Justice

Title: Kushiel's Justice
Author: Jacqueline Carey
Length: ~700 pages
Genre: fantasy
Plot Basics: Back from university, Imriel no Montreve de la Courcel (third in line for the throne) agrees to a political marriage with a girl from Alba. But before he marries her, Imri's interest in his cousin Sidonie, the dauphine of the kingdom, sets him on a path of a dangerous affair and a love that threatens the entire kingdom. When he reaches Alba, Imri's secret love for Sidonie and the wild magic of Alba ensnare him in a plot that could bring down both that kingdom and Sidonie. To set it to rights, Imri exacts justice on the plot's mastermind and tracks him down across the vast winter of Vralia.
Banter Points: Carey knows how to write epics! This whole series, set in a Renaissance-like alter-Europe is rich in detail and character. Imri's heartache rings true and his quest keeps readers turning pages. The in-love-with-his-cousin bit might seem odd in light of current mores, but for the world Carey creates, it works with a very Romeo-and-Juliet "star-crossed lovers" feel.
Bummer Points: This book drags a bit in the middle when Imri is in Alba. It makes sense at the end to understand the changes in Imri as a character, but the process for getting there seems a little slow while in it.
Word Nerd Recommendation: The next book about Imri comes out this summer and Word Nerd cannot wait. Carey definitely deserves a spot in the list of fantasy greats, somewhere around George R.R. Martin, Robin Hobb and Stephen Donaldson.

April 2008 Bibliometer

Word Nerd forgot she hadn't done the April tally of things read yet.

Here it is:
7 books,
2614 pages
avg. 87 pages/day

April was a bit sparser than the first three months of 2008, but Word Nerd attributes that to being in fundraising school for a week. While the class was great, it was information overload and when Word Nerd would get home after class, the last thing she wanted to do was try to absorb more information (even if it was just the plot of a novel.)

08 May 2008

New Writers Group

Indianapolis blog readers!

Word Nerd and the Harrison Center for the Arts are setting up a new writers group.

Writers in any genre are encouraged to apply. For group information and application submission guidelines, e-mail HCAWriters@gmail.com for information.

07 May 2008


The new chapter Word Nerd's trying to add to her WIP is not going well.

It feels forced, disjointed and anachronistic.


06 May 2008

The May Plan

The plan for May had been to read only books that Word Nerd owned or had been lent to her.

So much for that plan.

Word Nerd's got a copy of Stephenie Meyer's new book, "The Host," on its way to her through the library system.

Somehow, Word Nerd didn't realize this book came out in May (or figured like normal, it would take the library a good six weeks between the release of the book and getting it to the people who had it on hold).

Anyway, it looks like the owned/lent pile project may get pushed back into June because with a Stephenie Meyer book actually written for adults on its way, there's no way Word Nerd will let that title wait for a while.

05 May 2008

New Scene(s)

Word Nerd spent some time working on the WIP this weekend and hit the first place where she discovered she really needs to add some brand new material.

So far, there have been some small scene overhauls (ie, take out all the crappy dialogue and write better dialogue). There's also been one short scene addition. But this... Word Nerd discovered that in the original of trying to speed up the action, there was too much left out that couldn't be hinted at well-enough in short flashbacks.

This throws the revision schedule off because before moving forward, Word Nerd's stopping where she's at to add stuff. The additions include 1. moving one character's private room to a different section of the castle 2. A verbal fight. 3. Likely another verbal fight, with a different character. 4. Some sort of a scene to better set-up the romantic plot line that appears in the next chapter.

Word Nerd realizes these additions are not just a scene, but more like an entire new chapter. But she also knows the WIP will be stronger for it, so it's worth it to take this little revision detour.

02 May 2008

Book Banter -- Atonement

Title: Atonement
Author: Ian McEwan
Length: 351 pages
Genre: literary fiction
Plot Basics: Thirteen year-old Briony Tallis sees a moment pass between her older sister Cecilia and Robbie Turner, the gardener's son, one hot summer day. Briony's active imagination makes her think she understands what she sees. But, her interpretation -- caught between a child's understanding and an adult's -- triggers a series of events that changes her, along with Cecelia's and Robbie's forever.
Banter Points: Word Nerd is generally a stickler for reading the book before seeing the movie. This time, though, she saw the movie first, and was reminded when reading the book why she has that rule in the first place. She enjoyed the story and the characters were well-developed, but the book lost something because she knew the twist from the movie. One thing she liked better in the book was the second half. Where in the movie it seemed to drag on, in the book, McEwan's change of tone for that part really propelled it along.
Bummer Points: The ending? Even knowing what was going to happen didn't make it any better.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Read the book before seeing the movie. Also, Word Nerd enjoyed McEwan's style, so she may pick up more of his books in the future.